Japan Coast Guard vessels drove out a Taiwanese boat from the contiguous zone off Japanese territorial waters on Thursday, the latest brush between the two countries in the disputed waters.

A Taiwanese boat, carrying seven people including four Taiwanese activists, was spotted within Japan’s contiguous zone, provoking a water cannon duel between Taiwanese coastguard vessels and ships from the Japan Coast Guard.

The activists planned to land on the Senkakus and place a statue of the Goddess of the Sea on the islands, to protect Taiwanese fishermen in the area, according to AFP.

The Japanese coastguard confirmed that it took action after encountering the Taiwanese vessel.

“Our patrol boat carried out restrictions on the vessel such as blocking its path and discharging water,” it said in a statement.

“The vessel left our country’s contiguous zone at around 1:30 pm (0430 GMT) and continued sailing west-southwest away from the Senkakus”.

According to the Taiwanese coastguard, four of its vessels on routine patrols in the area had protected the boat. Three Chinese surveillance vessels were also positioned a few nautical miles off – the first time Chinese ships had been seen amid a standoff between Taiwan and Japan – but urged the three boats to keep their distance in order not to complicate matters, AFP reports.

A Japanese foreign ministry spokesman said officials at the de facto embassy in Taipei had urged Taiwan to “take proper action in order to prevent an unfavourable situation” from damaging the “favourable Japan-Taiwan relations”.