A report released by Japan’s Self-Defense Force says that Japan’s air force encountered Chinese aircraft for a record number of times in the fiscal year that ended March. Records show that scrambles increased to 306 compared to 156 the previous year, showing that tensions between the two countries are escalating as the territorial row over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands continue.
The total number of scrambles from the fiscal year was at 567, with Russia having the second highest number of cases at 248 as Japan is also involved in a slightly less tense dispute with them over the Northern Territories/Kuril Islands. Experts observe that the more than double air activity against Chinese aircraft is an indication that China has increased its provocative actions against Japan and that Tokyo has also been more aggressive in responding to an intrusion on what they consider as its airspace.
China’s Foreign Ministry has not made a comment over this issue, but just two days before, made a statement saying that Japan is “making trouble” over the islands, which the Chinese consider as rightfully theirs. The fact that the Japan Coast Guard and the Air Self Defense Forces monitor and patrol both the waters and airspace near the island is seen by Beijing as an encroachment on what should be theirs.
Last December, a Chinese surveillance plane entered the airspace above the islands, marking the first reported intrusion of that nature by China. Japan also accused China of locking weapons-guiding radar on Japanese targets, although Beijing denied the accusation. Currently, China has deployed naval vessels in the waters near the islands in the East Asian Sea, probably to show that they are capable and determined to protect their territory if provoked. 146 of the 306 reported scrambles against Chinese aircraft occurred during the January-March period this year alone.
[ via Wall Street Journal ]