China underscored its claim to the Senkaku Islands on Sept. 21, when three additional patrol ships joined what is now a de facto Chinese government flotilla in waters close to the disputed isles.
The 13 ships from Chinese state agencies comprise four marine surveillance vessels and nine fishery monitoring craft, the Japan Coast Guard said.
The Senkakus, a group of five uninhabited islands and reefs in the East China Sea, are administered by Japan but are claimed by both China and Taiwan, which call them Diaoyu and Diaoyutai, respectively.
Japan Coast Guard officials said four of the fishery monitoring vessels entered Japan's contiguous zone, a narrow band of ocean adjacent to but outside Japan's territorial waters, although no Chinese fishing fleet has yet been spotted there.
On the morning of Sept. 21, one boat, apparently carrying Taiwanese protesters, briefly entered the contiguous zone 44 kilometers west-southwest of Uotsurishima, the largest islet.
A coast guard vessel issued a warning.
The boat replied by radio: "Diaoyutai is part of our land," a crew member said, according to a report by the Japan Coast Guard.
Later that day, at around 8:20 p.m., a patrol vessel from Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration entered the contiguous zone 44 km west of Uotsurishima.
"We are here to guard Taiwanese fishing boats," the Japan Coast Guard quoted the vessel as saying by radio. "We are in Taiwan's territorial waters."
It later departed the contiguous zone, Japan Coast Guard officials said.
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