Japan scrambles jets as China flies near disputed islands

by WorldTribune Staff, September 26, 2016

Japan scrambled fighter jets on Sept. 25 after eight Chinese planes flew back and forth over waters near disputed islands in the East China Sea.

The Chinese planes flew over waters between Okinawa’s main island and Miyako-jima island near Taiwan, Japan’s Defense Ministry said in a statement. Two of the Chinese planes may have been fighter jets, the ministry said.

Chinese H-6K bomber. /AP
Chinese H-6K bomber. /AP

Japan rejects China’s Air Defense Identification Zone that encompasses islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

“We cannot accept the implication that the airspace over the Senkaku islands, which are part of our territory, belongs to China,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo on Sept. 26.

China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force said it deployed a fleet of 40 aircraft – including H-6K bombers, Su-30 fighters and air tankers – on what it called a “routine” drill through the Miyako Strait to the West Pacific for exercises.

Suga added that, while the Chinese planes didn’t cross into Japanese airspace, it was the first time that Japan saw Chinese fighter jets in the Miyako Strait.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament on Sept. 26 that, while he seeks to improve relations with China, any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea or South China Sea will not be tolerated.

In a speech in Washington earlier this month, Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada criticized China for its increasingly aggressive behavior in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea. She singled out Beijing for its reclamation of land around maritime features and expressed support for the U.S. Navy’s freedom of navigation operations.

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