Japan again scrambles jets to disputed islands

Bloomberg and AFP, TOKYO

Mon, Jan 07, 2013 - Page 1

Japan scrambled fighter jets after confirming that a Chinese state-owned airplane had flown toward the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) — which are also claimed by Taiwan — the Yomiuri Shimbun reported on its Web site on Saturday, citing the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

The Chinese propeller maritime aircraft ventured about 120km north of the uninhabited islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu (釣魚島) in China, at about 12pm.

The Chinese Y-12 twin-turboprop left without entering Japanese airspace, Yomiuri said.

The ministry did not answer phone calls seeking comment yesterday.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a fax seeking comment on the report.

The response came as Japan decided to increase defense spending for the first time in 11 years, according to the Kyodo news agency.

The incident was the second time in a month that Japan dispatched fighter jets in response to Chinese airplanes approaching the islands, which are claimed by both countries and Taiwan.

Japan dispatched eight F-15 fighter jets to the area on Dec. 13 after the Japanese Coast Guard spotted a Chinese marine surveillance plane near the isles, with the Japanese foreign ministry describing the flight as a “further dangerous act” that “escalates the situation.”

China protested a day later that Japanese military planes entered its airspace near the islands.