China reacted with outrage on Monday at Japan's purchase of a disputed island chain in the East China Sea, prolonging a standoff which has blighted bilateral ties and raised regional tensions in recent months.
Beijing sent two patrol ships to waters surrounding the islands--which are known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan--to reassert its claim after the Japanese government spent U.S. $26.18 million to acquire the three uninhabited islands from a Japanese family that has owned them since the 1970s.
In a growing dispute that further threatens ties between Asia's two biggest economies, China accused Japan of "playing with fire" over the long-simmering row, warning that its military stood ready to "defend our national sovereignty."
"This act is a severe infringement of Chinese territorial sovereignty," defense ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng has said.
Geng said the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands are China's inherent territory saying "sufficient historical and jurisprudential evidence" could be produced to prove it.
"The Chinese government and armed forces stand firm and are unshakeable in its determination and will safeguard sovereignty over the nation's territories," Geng said.