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Ministry spokesman Shuichi Fukuya said they were believed to be returning from target practice and refueling exercises in waters about 930 miles south of Okinawa.

He said the Japanese military saw the Chinese warships heading out to the area June 8 and 9.

Separately, the Foreign Ministry said a Chinese maritime research vessel briefly entered Japan’s exclusive economic zone Thursday, about 205 miles off the coast of Miyagi, one of the worst-hit areas in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.


Philippines seeks arms amid China tension

The Philippines said Thursday it hopes to lease naval equipment from the United States, calling for a “reset” in the two nations’ alliance in the face of rising friction at sea with China.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, in Washington for talks with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, also indicated that the Philippines views the tense South China Sea as being covered under its security treaty with the United States.

Mr. del Rosario said the Philippines wants to move away from buying second-hand military hardware and hopes the United States would consider “an operational lease so that we can look at fairly new equipment and be able to get our hands on that quickly.”

“We need to have the resources to be able to stand and defend ourselves and, I think, to the extent that we can do that, we become a stronger ally for you,” Mr. del Rosario said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies before his meeting with Mrs. Clinton.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Tuesday also called for U.S. assistance on the dispute. Mr. del Rosario said Mr. Aquino has allocated $252 million to upgrade the navy.