Japan has asked the Chinese government to explain the purpose of buoys that Chinese vessels have placed near the disputed East China Sea island chain claimed by both countries. Beijing claims that these buoys are intended to monitor ocean conditions but there are speculations in Japan that these might be intended to detect movement of submarines.
Speaking at a regularly scheduled news conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that the buoys were set there by the Chinese government to carry out “maritime weather observations.” “I think it does not deserve to be disputed or played up,” Hong concluded. Regardless of the intention, the buoys are sure to add to an already worsening situation. Chinese ships have repeatedly crossed into Japanese waters around the islands and confronted Japanese coast guard ships with flashed messages asserting Chinese sovereignty and demanding they leave the area. The sides have also accused each other of tailing their patrol planes. More recently, Japan says a Chinese ship locked on to one of its craft with its weapons control radar in a threatening gesture, something China has categorically denied.
The dispute between China and Japan over the islands intensified after Japan purchased three of the five in the group from their private owners in September. Beijing says the islands have been Chinese for centuries, but Japan refuses to acknowledge counterclaims.[ via The Republic ]