Tensions have reportedly escalated between Japan and China following the former’s decision to scramble its air force jets a record 199 times between the months of April and June this year to defend against Chinese aircraft coming close to its airspace.
According to a UPI news agency report, Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) jets were ordered into action when Chinese military planes appeared over the East China Sea.
The ASDF Joint Staff was quoted, as saying in a statement, “The area where Chinese planes are active is continuing to expand, particularly southward.”
The Financial Times quoted the Chinese side, as saying that the near dogfight with Japan, involved the rare use of fire control radar to target Chinese aircraft.
Japanese officials say China has increased its military activity in the sea and air, obliging it to almost double the scrambling of its aircraft to engage Chinese jets over the past three months.
According to daily, China and Japan have been increasingly embroiled in a heated dispute over territorial claims in the East China Sea, with both sides launching manoeuvres to counter each other.
A statement issued by China’s defence ministry said that the latest clash between the air force planes of the two countries took place on June 17, and threatened to turn dangerous, when Japanese warplanes used fire-control radar to “light up” their Chinese counterparts and released infrared flares during evasive manoeuvres.
Japan’s deputy chief of cabinet, however, has denied Beijing’s claims.
Later, both sides agreed that a pair of Chinese SU-30 fighter-bombers and two Japanese F-15 fighters faced each other over the East China Sea, where China and Japan have a long-running dispute over ownership of a group of islands known in Japan as the Senkaku and China as the Diaoyu.
Experts on either side have warned that such threatening manoeuvres can degenerate into a ‘he said, she said’ situation, and added that it would be very hard to verify what actually happened should an air battle take place, as the time span for such an event is tabulated in seconds.
According to the Financial Times, the last time a fire-control radar was allegedly engaged in the East China Sea was in January 2013, when Japan’s defence ministry said a Chinese frigate had locked a weapons radar on to a Japanese destroyer, calling the incident “a unilateral, provocative act and extremely regrettable”.
China had then denied the claim following an internal investigation.
Maritime tensions in the western Pacific are edging higher a week ahead of an international ruling on a dispute between China and the Philippines over sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.
An arbitration court in The Hague is expected to rule in favour of the Philippines and invalidate many if not all of Chinese claims in the South China Sea.
China has already rejected the arbitration proceedings.