Washington Times on October 25, 2012, reported that Japanese and Chinese authorities traded accusations over patrol vessels in waters near a disputed chain of islands, raising the temperature in the simmering three-way row over the islands’ ownership.

Four ships from the China Maritime Surveillance agency encountered four vessels from the Japanese coast guard while on patrol in the 12-mile territorial waters around the islands early Thursday, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.

Chinese authorities said the maritime surveillance vessels radioed the Japanese ships and ordered them to leave, Xinhua reported.

The Japanese government lodged a “strong protest” over the incident with China’s ambassador in Tokyo, according to the Japanese news agency Kyodo.

Tokyo and Beijing both lay claim to the islands — called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China — as does Taiwan.

Although tiny, barren and uninhabited, the islands are valuable because they rest astride strategic shipping lanes, are surrounded by rich fishing waters and sit atop potential petroleum deposits.

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