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Tokyo (AFP) Jan 21, 2013
Three Chinese government ships entered waters around islands at the centre of a dispute with Tokyo on Monday, the day after China rebuked the United States for comments seen as supporting Japan.
Japan's coastguard said the maritime surveillance boats were sailing in and out of waters around a chain of Tokyo-controlled islands known as the Senkakus in Japan, which Beijing calls the Diaoyus, for nearly nine hours.
The three boats all left the waters by 3:45 pm (0645 GMT) and were sailing away from the islands, the coastguard said.
China has repeatedly sent ships to the area since Japan nationalised some of the chain in September, a move that triggered a diplomatic dispute and huge anti-Japan demonstrations across China.
Beijing has also sent air patrols to the archipelago in the East China Sea, and in recent weeks both Beijing and Tokyo have scrambled fighter jets, though there have been no clashes.
On Sunday, Beijing said it was "strong dissatisfied" after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a veiled warning to China not to challenge Tokyo's control over the chain, which is believed to sit atop vast mineral reserves.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Japan's top government spokesman, refuted the Chinese remarks, describing it as "extremely regrettable."
On Friday, Clinton said the US opposed "any unilateral actions that would seek to undermine Japanese administration" of the islands.
The top US diplomat added "we do not want to see any action taken by anyone that could raise tensions or result in miscalculation that would undermine the peace, security and economic growth in this region".
Suga hailed Clinton's comments, saying: "It shows the United States' strong posture toward the Japan-US security alliance. The Japanese government welcomes her comments."
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