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Chinese balloonist attempts landing on disputed Senkaku islands

Japan Coast Guard / Reuters

A hot-air balloon drifts on the East China Sea near the disputed isles known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, in a photo released by Japan's Coast Guard.

A Chinese man attempting to land a hot-air balloon on disputed islands in the East China Sea was rescued after ditching in the ocean, Japan’s Coast Guard said Wednesday.

The man told Japanese authorities that he was a 35-year-old cook from Hebei Province who took off Wednesday morning from Fujian Province, hoping to land on Uotsuri island, the Kyodo News service reported. Uotsuri is in the Senkaku island group, which is claimed by China and Japan.

China announced in November that it was including the islands, known as Diaoyu in Chinese, in its air defense identification zone -- meaning foreign aircraft would have to declare flight plans and stay in touch with Chinese authorities while passing through the area.

The U.S. responded by sending B-52 bombers through the expanded zone, and Japan and South Korea did the same.

Kyodo said Japan’s Coast Guard sent two patrol ships and a helicopter to the area to search for the wayward balloonist after a request from Taiwanese authorities. The man wasn’t identified.

The islands are about 105 miles north of Japan’s Ishigaki island, 105 miles northeast of Taiwan and 200 miles east of China.