TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan protested to China on Friday after Chinese coastguard ships and fishing vessels entered what Tokyo considers its territorial waters around a group of disputed islets, the Japanese foreign ministry said.

Beijing claims the uninhabited, Tokyo-controlled East China Sea islands, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, and occasionally sends its coastguard vessels near them.

But this is the first time Chinese coastguard ships and fishing vessels have sailed together in the area, in what appeared to be increased assertion of jurisdiction over the islets, a foreign ministry official said.

Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama summoned China's ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua, to lodge a strong protest, the ministry said.

China on Friday also accused Japan's new defense minister, Tomomi Inada, of recklessly misrepresenting history after she declined to say whether Japanese troops massacred civilians in China during World War Two.

Ties between China and Japan, the world's second- and third-largest economies, have been plagued by the territorial row, the legacy of Japans' wartime occupation of parts of China and regional rivalry.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Richard Balmforth)