Japan is searching for eight Chinese crew members missing after their fishing boat collided with a cargo ship off disputed islands in the East China Sea.
The Japanese coastguard’s search on Friday came one day after six other crew members were rescued.
The Chinese boat apparently sank after colliding with a Greek-flagged ship on Thursday off the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyus.
Hundreds of Chinese fishing boats have swarmed around the islands since early August with the start of the mackerel season.
Up to 15 Chinese coastguard vessels – four times the usual number – were also in the area, prompting a Japanese protest.
Tensions between China and Japan have been on the rise recently, with Beijing reportedly cancelling a trip to Tokyo by assistant foreign minister Kong Xuanyou as the Japanese side repeatedly protested against the activities of Chinese ships near the Diaoyus.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippines Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay called on China on Thursday to avoid any intimidating actions and follow the rule of law in disputed waters, saying maritime order based on the rule of law is indispensable for regional stability and prosperity.
More than a dozen official Chinese ships accompanied hundreds of fishing boats in waters surrounding the disputed islands last weekend. China’s ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua, was summoned and handed a stern protest over the incidents.
Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said was told by Cheng that the large number of Chinese vessels was due to a “big catch of fish” seen in the area.
Cheng said both sides need to make efforts through diplomatic dialogue to keep the situation under control.