China defends dispatch of ships to disputed islands

"We have always been in accordance with Chinese law and regulations, dispatching fisheries law enforcement vessels to protect the Chinese fishermen," said Ma Zhaoxu, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.

The two nations have been involved in a bitter diplomatic row since the collision between a Chinese trawler and two Japanese patrol boats on September 7 near the islands in the East China Sea called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

The Foreign Ministry confirmed reports from Japan that it has sent fisheries law enforcement vessels to the disputed islands. Responding to a question concerning Chinese fisheries patrol boats' missions in waters near the Islands in East China Sea, Ma said: "The waters off the Diaoyu Islands are traditional Chinese fishing grounds".

Chinese law enforcement vessels were deployed to patrol off the Diaoyu Islands after a collision between a Chinese trawler and two Japanese patrol boats last month. Japanese authorities seized the Chinese trawler and the crew, and detained the trawler's captain. He was subsequently released after China halted bilateral exchanges.

Tensions subsided after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan met during an Asia-Europe summit. However, soon violent rallies in several Chinese cities protesting Tokyo's claim to the islands have threatened to reopen hostilities.

On Tuesday, Ma urged Japan to take concrete actions to repair ties, rejecting Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara's comments that China's counter-measures were "hysterical."

Ma also called on Japan to show its sincerity towards improving ties and paving the way for a successful meeting between the leaders of the two countries. Wen and Kan are expected to attend a series of meetings of East Asian leaders in Vietnam from October 28-30 to discuss the rising tensions that evoked nationalistic feelings on both sides.

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