BEIJING (AP) -- China on Thursday 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 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.