Six Chinese surveillance ships cruised into Japanese waters today—or at least, what Japan believes are Japanese waters—prompting a tense exchange with the Japanese patrol ships there, which radioed the Chinese to demand they leave. The Chinese ships refused. The standoff ended around mid-afternoon, the Washington Post reports, after Japan summoned the Chinese ambassador to protest, and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda assembled a crisis task force.
It's the biggest escalation yet in the feud over a pair of rocky, uninhabited islands Japan recently purchased, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. China's state-run news service said the move "shows China's determination to safeguard its sovereignty," adding that "it is well-known that the Diaoyu Islands … have been Chinese territory since ancient times." Analysts are worried. "It's not impossible for the situation to get out of hand," one expert says.