BEIJING — China accused Japan of raising regional tensions with its increased use of fighter jets to monitor Chinese aircraft that approach a cluster of islands claimed by both countries.
The remarks from Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Thursday came one day after Japan's Defense Ministry said it dispatched fighter jets in response to Chinese planes 306 times during the 12 months through March 2013, up from 156 the previous year.
Chinese aircraft have steadily increased patrols in the East China Sea, where the Japanese-controlled islands are located. There has been only one report of a Chinese plane violating Japanese airspace over the uninhabited islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
"We all know Japan has continuously provoked and escalated tensions over the Diaoyus," Hua told reporters at a regularly scheduled news conference.
Hua said that China is firm in its resolve to defend its claim to the islands, but that it wants to solve the issue peacefully through dialogue and negotiation, a reference to Beijing's insistence that Tokyo at least formally concede that ownership of the islands is in dispute.
"What Japan needs to do is, not send more planes, but show sincerity and action and talk with China," Hua said.
Simmering tensions over the islands flared violently in September amid Chinese fury at the Japanese government's purchasing of three of them from their private owners. Japanese businesses were attacked in several Chinese cities and Chinese patrol boats were dispatched to confront Japanese ships in waters near the islands.
The outburst was more vehement and sustained than previous rounds of anti-Japanese sentiment that were grounded in Chinese resentment over Japan's brutal occupation of much of the country during the 1930s and 1940s.
However, the risk of conflict appears to have receded in recent weeks amid back-channel diplomacy and efforts to prevent a clash at sea.
Related on HuffPost:
In this photo taken Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012, Chinese police in anti-riot gear use their shields to block projectiles thrown at them during anti-Japan protests outside the city headquarters of the Communist Party of China in Shenzhen in south China's Guangdong province. (AP Photo)
Anti-Japan protesters burn a Japanese flag during their protest in Wuhan, in central China's Hubei province, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012. Protesters in China began another day of demonstrations against Japan Sunday, after protests over disputed islands spread across numerous cities and at times turned violent. (AP Photo)
A water bottle thrown by a demonstrator hits at the main entrance gate of Japanese Embassy during a protest in Beijing Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Chinese protesters carry Chinese national flags and a banner which reads "Kill the Japan Dog, Return my Diaoyu Island" as they march past the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, China, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A customer walks out of a convenience store with a Chinese flag and a notice that read: "Family Mart belongs to a Taiwan invested company" ahead of major protests expected on Tuesday, near the Japanese Consulate General Monday Sept. 17, 2012 in Shanghai, China. China moved to tamp down rising anti-Japan sentiment after a weekend of sometimes violent demonstrations, threatening Monday to arrest lawbreakers and scrubbing websites of protest-related images and posts. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
A worker covers a signboard of a Japanese restaurant chain with blue sheets ahead of major protests expected on Tuesday, near the Japanese Consulate General Monday Sept. 17, 2012 in Shanghai, China. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
A Chinese demonstrator throws a teargas canister back to riot policemen during a protest against Japan in Shenzhen, China Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Apple Daily)
In this photo taken Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012, Chinese paramilitary police face off with anti-Japan protesters holding up a banner which reads "Boycott Japanese goods" outside the city headquarters of the Communist Party of China in Shenzhen in south China's Guangdong province. (AP Photo)
A Chinese demonstrator carrying his son on his shoulder chants anti-Japan slogan during a protest in Beijing, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Chinese protesters with the words "Boycott Japanese goods" on their shirts march towards the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, China, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A group of paramilitary policemen are surrounded by anti-Japan protesters outside Shenzhen city's Communist Party headquarters, in southern China's Guangdong province, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012. (AP Photo)
An anti-Japan protesters and a police officer scuffle in Shanghai, China, Sunday Sept. 16, 2012. (AP Photo)