March 4 (UPI) -- Japan's self-defense forces conducted naval drills in an area of the East China Sea after Tokyo said it would allow its coast guard to fire on vessels trying to land on Japanese territory.
Japan's coast guard and maritime self-defense forces exercised together in waters west of Kyushu Island on Wednesday, deploying the JS Sawagiri, an Asagiri-class destroyer that carries anti-ship missile systems.
Japan also deployed the Hayabusa-class guided missile patrol boat Otaka and two patrol helicopters, Kyodo News reported.
The training included scenarios where Japan's forces conduct an investigation into "unidentified foreign ships" suspected of trying to access facilities, including Japanese nuclear power plants, according to Hong Kong's ON.CC News.
The drills are being reported at a time when the country grows increasingly wary of the presence of Chinese coast guard vessels in Japan-claimed waters. On Feb. 1, a law in China that permits the nation's coast guard to use firepower against boats that enter Chinese-claimed waters went into effect.
China has claimed the disputed Senkaku or Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea. According to Stars and Stripes last week, China has said the islands are "inherent Chinese territory."
Japan has protested the presence of Chinese boats and patrol vessels in the East China Sea.
On Friday, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said a local law, the Police Official Duties Execution Act, could allow Japanese ships to fire on foreign boats as a preemptive measure against a "heinous crime," according to Stars and Stripes.
The latest policy from Tokyo is a departure from the past norms. Government officials previously said firing on foreign boats could only be allowed for self-defense or emergency, the report said, citing local news service Japan Today.
Chinese coast guard vessels have been challenging Japanese claims. In February, Tokyo frequently reported incursions near the Senkaku Islands.
In January, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed American commitment to a bilateral treaty with Japan that also applies to the Senkakus in the event of an attack.