The dispute over tiny islands in the East China Sea escalated when Japanese and Taiwanese ships opened fire on each other, with water cannon. About 40 Taiwanese fishing boats and 12 patrol boats entered waters near the islands, briefly triggering an exchange of fire with Japanese coast guard ships. Coast guard officials said the Taiwanese vessels had ignored warnings to get out of their territory, and the Taiwanese ships pulled back after being fired upon.
It was Taiwan's first foray into the waters around the uninhabited islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, since the Japanese government purchased some of them from private owners two weeks ago. China, Japan and Taiwan all claim the islands, but they are administered by Tokyo.
The purchase has sparked sometimes violent protests in China and informal boycotts of Japanese products. China has also dispatched government marine monitoring vessels to patrol around the islands.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun and Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai held a meeting on the dispute yesterday at China's Foreign Ministry.
After the four-hour meeting, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said both sides exchanged views "frankly and deeply" and agreed to continue discussions. He reiterated that "China will never tolerate Japan's unilateral acts which violate China's territorial sovereignty."