Beijing is jeopardizing peace in a row with Tokyo over disputed islands, Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera said yesterday, days after China warned any bid to shoot down its drones would constitute “an act of war.”
Onodera’s comments are likely to heighten fears that the two countries could be sliding toward conflict over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), called the Senkakus in Japan and also claimed by Taiwan.
“I believe the intrusions by China in the territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands fall in the ‘gray zone’ [between] peacetime and an emergency situation,” Onodera told reporters in Tokyo.
The comments from Onodera following those from China’s defense ministry at the weekend, appear to have taken the verbal fisticuffs to a new level.
On Monday, China’s coast guard sent four vessels into the waters around the islands, where they stayed for two hours, shadowed by their Japanese counterparts.
That came after three consecutive days in which Tokyo scrambled jets to meet Chinese aircraft as they traversed a strait leading to the Pacific. They did not enter Japanese airspace.
“They were two early-warning aircraft and two bombers,” Onodera said. “It was unusual that so many aircraft flew between the Okinawan main island and Miyako island. We consider that it is also very unusual that it occurred for three days in a row. We understand that it is one of the trends showing that China is now vigorously expanding its areas of activities, including into the open ocean.”