China has stepped up its actions of encroaching on Japanese territory around the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, as after months of Chinese patrol ships sailing in nearby waters, a government aircraft entered Japan’s airspace over the islands on Thursday. The unexpected move caught the Japanese Defense Ministry by surprise, resulting in their rush to deploy several F-15 fighter jets in response. Tokyo followed suit by filing a complaint with Beijing, criticizing the provoking act.
A spokesman for the Japanese government later addressed the public, saying that no other action was necessary once the four F-15s were deployed by the Self-Defense Forces, and that the Chinese aircraft left Japan’s airspace soon after. The plane was a Chinese Oceanic Administration aircraft, and was first spotted just after 11:00 AM. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura stated that the move was “extremely deplorable” as it came right after repeated warnings to Chinese patrol ships that had been seen entering Japanese territorial waters several hours earlier.
China’s Foreign Ministry has responded that its country’s plane had taken a “completely normal” flight path, and further warned that it was Japan that should stop entering disputed areas that are rightfully Chinese. Tensions between the two nations are at some of the worst they’ve ever been since mid-September. Japan, who already controlled the Senkaku Islands, purchased them from their private owners in order to formalize their ownership over China, which calls them Diaoyu. The territorial intrusions have been strictly limited to the sea before now, and Thursday’s entrance into Japanese airspace actually marks the first by a Chinese official aircraft since 1958.