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Record 998 Chinese gov't ships spotted in Japan's contiguous zone near Senkakus this year

The Senkaku Islands off Okinawa Prefecture are seen in this file photo taken in October 2011. (Pool photo)

TOKYO -- A record 998 Chinese government ships were confirmed in the contiguous zone around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, just outside Japan's territorial waters, this year, largely surpassing the previous record of 819 in 2013.

This year's figure, as of Nov. 29, indicates that tensions between Japan and China -- while improving with summit talks and other initiatives -- have been intensifying in the area near the disputed islands.

Since Japan's purchase of the uninhabited islets in the southernmost prefecture in September 2012, the number of China Coast Guard vessels surged in Japan's territorial waters (approximately 22 kilometers from the coast) as well as in the contiguous zone (about 22 kilometers from the outer edge of the territorial sea). According to the Japan Coast Guard (JCG), at least one Chinese government vessel was observed in the contiguous zone every day between April 12 and June 14 this year, the most consecutive days recorded.

The number of Chinese government vessels seen in the contiguous zone in the first 11 months this year has already topped last year's figure of 615 by nearly 400. In addition, a total of 114 government ships from China had been spotted in Japan's territorial waters as of Nov. 29. While the figure was below the record 180 in 2013, it could reach the second highest of 121 marked in 2016.

Such vessels have become larger in recent years and some of them are equipped with autocannons. The JCG has implemented security measures equivalent to 14 large-scale patrol ships to warn foreign government ships sailing in the contiguous zone and issue exclusion orders when they enter Japan's territorial waters.

The Japanese government is set to introduce two more large patrol ships in the beginning of 2020 and plans to deliver Japan's concerns to Chinese President Xi Jinping when he visits Tokyo next spring.

(Japanese original by Ryuko Tadokoro, Political News Department)

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