BEIJING--A Chinese official suggested the country was willing to risk a "minor conflict" over its territorial dispute with Japan, saying it was prepared to chase off Japan Coast Guard vessels from waters around the Senkaku Islands.
The statement follows an announcement by China's foreign ministry Sept. 14 that it has submitted a sea chart to the United Nations showing the waters as its territorial sea.
Yu Zhirong, a senior official of the State Oceanic Administration who was formerly with the People’s Liberation Army Navy, told The Asahi Shimbun: "We will have to chase off Japan Coast Guard vessels from Chinese territorial waters. We are not fearful of risking a minor conflict."
Yu, who served as deputy chief of the SOA’s East China Sea Branch until last year, added that the chart submitted to the United Nations is "designed to clearly demonstrate the new territorial sea China had set."
The Chinese government had announced Sept. 10 its intention to turn the waters around the Senkakus, which it calls Diaoyu, into its territorial sea. The foreign ministry said the chart's submission has completed all legal procedures required under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
On Sept. 14, three days after the Japanese government purchased three of the disputed islands from their private owner, the SOA dispatched six Haijian marine surveillance vessels into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkakus.
At a news conference the same day, Hong Lei, a foreign ministry spokesman, said, "The waters around Diaoyu are under China's jurisdiction. (The dispatch of the surveillance vessels) is a legitimate act of law enforcement."
Yu, who is now a researcher at the ocean development research center under the SOA, said the two fleets sent on Sept. 14 were the largest in number and the highest in performance to be dispatched so far.
The vessels included the Haijian 50, which has a load displacement of 4,000 tons and is capable of carrying a helicopter.
Past surveillance excursions usually involved two Chinese vessels circling Uotsurishima, the largest of the uninhabited islands, outside Japanese territorial waters.
On Sept. 14, however, the vessels repeatedly entered Japanese territorial waters around all five of the islands before leaving the contiguous zone outside Japanese territorial waters.
China is expected to send additional surveillance ships as well as fishing boats into Japanese territorial waters to bolster its claims over the islands.
A fishing ban in the East China Sea, which has been in place for three and a half months, is set to be lifted on Sept. 16.
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