Thursday saw Japan’s Self Defense Forces deploy fighter jets for the second time within a month after spotting several Chinese military aircrafts approaching the disputed Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands. Government officials say military radar spotted the planes approaching north of the Japanese-controlled territory around noon, and F-15 fighters were then scrambled from the SDF base in Okinawa.
While the group of Chinese planes ended up turning back before entering Japan’s territorial airspace, they did fly within the area labeled the “air defense identification zone.” However, among the Chinese aircrafts were several fighter jets of their own, including J-7s and J-10s. While there was no confrontation between the two nation’s planes near the uninhabited islands, Chinese flights did continue in the region until around 5:00 PM.
The last few weeks have seen Chinese patrol ships and airplanes repeatedly entering the areas around the Senkaku Islands. The first instance of aircrafts being involved took place in December, when a Beijing government plane did violate Japanese airspace over the islands. F-15s were deployed that time as well, but no other action was necessary. That was the first such violation by a Chinese official aircraft since 1958, and resulted in a protest filed from the Tokyo government. SDF fighter jets were deployed four more times between then and now to intercept Chinese aircrafts, however there were no additional airspace violations, and until now the country’s military planes weren’t used.[via AsiaOne]