Japan PMTokyo: Japan said it was unable to immediately provide decommissioned patrol ships to Vietnam amid heightened tensions in the South China Sea as its own coastguard was stretched by surveillance activities.

As tensions mount between China and other claimants to the South China Sea, countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines are rushing to bolster their maritime patrols.

Japan, itself locked in a bitter territorial spat with China, in March agreed to dispatch a research team to Vietnam as a step toward providing it with patrol ships. Patrol ships from China and Japan have been playing cat and mouse in waters near disputed East China Sea islets, raising fears of an accidental clash between the world’s second- and third-largest economies.