The balloon crashed after hitting turbulence Wednesday. Pic: AP.

TOKYO (AP) — A Chinese cook who crashed into the sea while trying to fly on a hot-air balloon to islands claimed by both China and Japan has been rescued by Japan’s Coast Guard.

Xu Shuaijun, 35, crashed Wednesday after hitting turbulence as he approached the islands, known in Japan as Senkaku and Diayou in China, the Coast Guard said Thursday.

The Coast Guard received a missing-person report from Taiwanese officials, and a Coast Guard helicopter spotted Xu about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the islands, they said.

He was picked up by a boat and later handed over to a Chinese patrol ship, according to the Coast Guard. His life was not in danger, although other details were not available.

The islands have been a sore point in bilateral relations for years, and nationalists from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong have occasionally tried to sail to them.

A recent visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to a Tokyo shrine that honors World War II war criminals has outraged China, adding to the bilateral tensions.