TOKYO, Japan – Japan accused China of flying fighter jets “dangerously” close to two of its military planes over the East China Sea Wednesday, June 11, as bilateral tensions simmer over the countries’ territorial dispute.
Two Chinese SU-27 jets flew as close as 30 meters (100 feet) away from the Japanese defense aircraft at about 11am local time (0200 GMT), the defense ministry in Tokyo said.
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters his ministry had lodged a diplomatic complaint with China over the incident.
It was the second time in less than 3 weeks that Tokyo accused Beijing of “dangerous” flights by Chinese fighter jets against Japanese military planes.
The alleged incident occurred over the open seas near the disputed waters where China’s stated air defense identification zone overlaps with that of Japan.
The area is about 200-300 kilometers (125-190 miles) north of the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyus.
Defense Minister Onodera called the Chinese aircraft’s maneuvers “extremely dangerous flights that could have led to an accident.”
“We cannot allow this to happen,” he said, urging Beijing to prevent a recurrence by establishing a hotline between their defense officials.
In an apparent tit-for-tat move, the Chinese defense ministry said on May 29 that two Japanese fighter planes came within 10 meters of a Chinese transport aircraft over the East China Sea in late November 2013.
The territorial dispute flared in September 2012 when Tokyo nationalized some of the islands.
Chinese state-owned ships and aircraft, including coastguard vessels, have since approached the island group, sometimes venturing into its territorial waters and airspace, chased by Japanese coastguard patrols and prompting Tokyo to scramble fighter jets.
Fears of a military clash in the area have been heightened after China unilaterally declared last November the establishment of its air defense identification zone above the East China Sea, which overlaps a similar Japanese zone. – Rappler.com
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