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China intrudes into Japanese waters for longest period amid isle row

This file photo taken in September 2012 shows the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.(Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Two Chinese Coast Guard ships have intruded into Japanese territorial waters near disputed islands in the East China Sea, staying there for the longest time on record, the Japan Coast Guard said Friday.

    The two vessels have remained in the waters around the Senkaku Islands since around 4:10 p.m. Thursday, according to the Japanese coast guard. In August 2013, a Chinese intrusion in the area lasted for 28 hours and 15 minutes.

    China claims the Japanese-administered islands, calling them Diaoyu.

    The Chinese ships earlier Friday appeared to be trying to approach a Japanese fishing boat operating in the waters, the Japanese coast guard said. Japanese patrol ships have arrived in the waters to ensure the safety of the boat and urge the Chinese vessels to leave the area.

    The Japanese government has lodged a protest with China through diplomatic channels, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference.

    "We have been strongly urging (China) to stop trying to approach the Japanese fishing boat and leave our territorial waters immediately," Suga, the top government spokesman, said. "We will continue to deal with the matter calmly and resolutely."

    It is the first time since June 22 that a Chinese ship has entered Japanese territorial waters around the Senkakus.

    On that day, the city assembly of Ishigaki in Okinawa Prefecture passed a resolution to rename an administrative area covering the Senkaku Islands.

    The name change from "Tonoshiro" to "Tonoshiro Senkaku" drew a sharp rebuke from Beijing.

    China has sent ships to waters around the islets for 80 days in a row, the longest streak since Japan put them under state control in September 2012, despite some recent thawing in bilateral relations that had been frayed over the Senkaku issue and conflicting views over history.

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