China has accused Japan of heightening tensions in the East China Sea by its increased use of fighter jets to patrol the disputed chain of islands that are claimed by both Beijing and Tokyo.

“We all know Japan has continuously provoked and escalated tensions over the Diaoyus, ” said China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Thursday, referring to the disputed islands, which are known as Senkaku in Japan. On Wednesday, Japan’s Defense Ministry said it had sent fighter jets to the disputed areas - in response to flights by Chinese aircraft - 306 times during the 12 months through March 2013. China has increased patrols around the chain of islands, which are under the control of Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan. However, there has been only one report of violation of the Japanese airspace by a Chinese plane. The Chinese spokeswoman also said Beijing was firm in its claim to the islands, but that it wanted to resolve the issue through negotiation.

“What Japan needs to do is not send more planes, but show sincerity and action and talk with China, ” Hua Chunying stated.

Japan and China have long been competing over the sovereignty of the uninhabited islands, which are located near a crucial shipping lane and would give the owner exclusive oil, mineral and fishing rights in the surrounding waters. On September 11,2012, Tokyo signed a deal to buy three of the islands from their private Japanese owner in line with plans to nationalize the archipelago.