China to step up patrol near disputed islands: report

China will increase maritime surveillance in a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea to guard its territorial rights, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The uninhabited but strategically located island chain known as Diaoyu in Chinese is believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves, and is at the heart of a long-running diplomatic dispute between China, Japan and Taiwan.

"The patrols are part of our important long-term responsibility," Wu Ping, deputy head of government agency China Maritime Surveillance, told Xinhua.

Two Chinese patrol boats recently conducted a mission to monitor "illegal" oil and gas extraction projects around the disputed island chain, the report said. The islands are known as Senkaku in Japan.

Disputes over the East China Sea and South China Sea have intensified in recent years with several Asian nations locked in competing claims over parts of the isles.

Beijing says it has sovereignty over essentially all of the South China Sea, where its professed ownership of the Spratly archipelago overlaps with claims by Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.

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