Mon, May 26, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Japan, China trade barbs over incident in South China Sea

Reuters, TOKYO

Japan and China yesterday accused each other’s air forces of dangerous behavior over the East China Sea, with Japan saying Chinese aircraft came within a few dozen meters of its warplanes.

Japan’s defense minister accused Beijing of going “over the top” in its approach to disputed territory.

China’s defense ministry said Japanese planes had carried out “dangerous” actions during Chinese joint maritime exercises with Russia.

Tensions have been running high between China and its neighbors over Beijing’s assertive stance on claiming land and sea territory.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense said Chinese SU-27 fighters on Saturday came as close as 50m to a Japanese OP-3C surveillance plane near disputed islands, which Taiwan also claims, and within 30m of a YS-11EB electronic intelligence aircraft.

“Closing in while flying normally over the high seas is impossible,” Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera told reporters in comments broadcast on TV Asahi. “This is a close encounter that is outright over the top.”

Onodera said Japan conveyed its concerns to the Chinese side through diplomatic channels. He also said the Chinese planes were carrying missiles.

A ministry official said it was the closest Chinese warplanes had ever come to Japan Self-Defense Force aircraft.

The Chinese Ministry of Defense said its jets were scrambled in the East China Sea on Saturday after Japanese aircraft entered its air defense zone during maritime exercises with Russia.

The ministry said the Japanese aircraft had entered the zone despite “no fly” notices issued ahead of the exercises. China declared its air defense identification zone last year, despite protests by Japan and the US.

“Japanese military planes intruded on the exercise’s airspace without permission and carried out dangerous actions in a serious violation of international laws and standards, which could have easily caused a misunderstanding and even led to a mid-air accident,” the statement said.

China had proposed urgent talks, it said, and demanded that Japan “respect the lawful rights of China’s and Russia’s navies ... and stop all reconnaissance and interference activities. Otherwise, Japan will bear any and all consequences from this.”

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