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China holds navy drills amid row with Japan

BEIJING -- China flexed some maritime muscle Friday in its dispute with Japan over a chain of uninhabited islands, holding naval exercises in the East China Sea to demonstrate its ability to enforce offshore territorial claims.

Both countries have been displaying their naval prowess during an unexpectedly bitter dispute over the islands, called Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese. Tokyo angered Beijing last month by nationalizing some of the islands, in a move that sparked violent protests in China.

Nearby Taiwan also claims the islands, which are uninhabited but surrounded by rich fishing grounds and possibly lucrative undersea energy deposits.

Friday's exercise involved 11 vessels from the East China Sea fleet and the civilian marine surveillance and fishery administration agencies, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Eight aircraft also took part, it said.

The drills focused on patrol tactics and responses to emergencies that threaten China's territory, Xinhua said. State TV footage showed a frigate, a fighter jet and some helicopters participating. While the exact location of the exercises wasn't known, TV showed the vessels and aircraft operating near shore, not on the high seas or close to the disputed islands.

State media accounts of the exercises linked them to recent disputes.

Xinhua said patrol vessels from the fishery administration and the marine surveillance agency have recently been stalked and harassed by foreign vessels while carrying out missions.

“The struggle to protect sovereignty faces many challenges,” it said.

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