China says it plans to conduct a geographical survey of a group of islands at the center of a heated territorial dispute with Japan.
The official Xinhua news agency says the survey of the Diaoyu Islands, known as Senkaku in Japan, is part of a wider plan to map China's territorial claims.
It gave no further details, but said the mapping program aims to safeguard Beijing's “maritime rights and interests.”
China and Japan have long disputed ownership of the uninhabited islands, which are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and potential energy deposits.
Tensions increased last year after the Japanese government purchased some of the islands from their private Japanese landowner, prompting days of widespread anti-Japan protests in China.
Both countries have recently sent planes to patrol the area, intensifying fears of a possible clash between the two Asian powers. China has also sent regular patrol boats to the islands, which are administered by Japan.