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Gov't seeks safety of Japanese nationals in China amid Senkaku unrest.

TOKYO, Sept. 18 Kyodo

A Japan Coast guard patrol boat spotted a Chinese fisheries patrol ship Tuesday morning near the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands claimed by China, government officials said, in what may be part of Beijing's response to Japan's nationalization of the islets.

The government set up an information liaison office within the crisis management center at the prime minister's official residence after being alerted to the ship's presence within the contiguous zone about 24 nautical miles off the islands, and in light of media reports that numerous Chinese fishing boats are expected to approach the waters later in the day.

The 11th Regional Coast Guard headquarters in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, said the Chinese patrol ship was spotted in the zone in the East China Sea shortly before 7 a.m. and transmitted a message by radio telling Japan Coast Guard vessels to get out of the waters around the Senkaku Islands, which China calls the Diaoyutai.

In responding to a warning from the Japanese Coast Guard vessel, the Chinese ship said in Chinese that the Diaoyutai is Chinese territory, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard also said two people believed to be Japanese nationals landed on Uotsuri Island in the Senkakus at around 9 a.m. and the Coast Guard is currently searching their vessel.

Meanwhile, the government will do its utmost to protect Japanese nationals in China following further calls online for Chinese to take to the street in protest against Japan's nationalization of the disputed islands, the officials said.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda earlier put the Japanese Embassy in Beijing and the general consulates in major Chinese cities on alert.

The government said it will urge its Chinese counterpart to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals.

In September, 2000, the Japan Coast Guard in Ishigaki Island arrested the Chinese skipper of a Chinese fishing boat which clashed with Coast Guard patrol boats and then ignored orders to stop.

The incident triggered a diplomatic dispute.

A senior official at the regional coast guard headquarters said, "We remain on alert by racketing up our alert level."

The Japan Coast Guard said seven of its patrol boats have been tasked with guarding the Senkaku Islands. In addition, it has deployed some small patrol boats capable of tracking Chinese fishing boats.

Tuesday fell upon the 81st anniversary of a 1931 incident that triggered the Manchurian Incident, in which the Imperial Japanese Army blew up a Japanese railway in southern Manchuria to provide the pretext for an invasion.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Sep 24, 2012
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