The Japanese government says it will strengthen security in waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture amid increasing activity by Chinese government ships in the area.
Japan controls the Senkaku Islands. China and Taiwan claim them. The Japanese government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan's territory. It says there is no issue of sovereignty to be resolved over them.
The Japan Coast Guard says that Chinese government vessels last year entered the contiguous zone outside Japan's territorial waters around the islands for a record 333 days. That's far above the previous year's 282 days.
They were also spotted in the contiguous zone for 111 days in a row between April and August. That's the longest streak since the Japanese government nationalized the islands in 2012.
The Japan Coast Guard says a total of 78 Chinese official vessels entered Japanese territorial waters around the Senkakus on 24 occasions in 2020.
The number of ships and the frequency of entries were lower than the previous year but the vessels stayed for a longer period. For instance, between October 11 and 13 last year, Chinese vessels remained in Japanese waters for a total of 57 hours and 39 minutes, breaking the previous record.
Okushima Takahiro, the head of the Japan Coast Guard, told reporters last month that the situation around the islands remains unpredictable with the size of the Chinese government ships and their armaments becoming larger. He said the Coast Guard will do all it can to protect Japanese waters.
The Coast Guard plans to add eight large patrol ships to its fleet through fiscal 2023 to boost its patrolling capability, starting this year.