Japan's Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) Thursday scrambled fighter jets to head off several Chinese military planes in its self-proclaimed Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) near the disputed Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, Japanese media reported.
The Chinese planes were spotted on Japanese military radar north of the Diaoyu Islands, the Fuji TV network reported, quoting Japanese government officials.
They did not enter airspace over the islands but flew inside Japan's ADIZ, the report said.
The Chinese planes were gone when F-15 jet fighters scrambled from an airbase in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture reached the area, the report said, adding Chinese flights continued until about 5 pm local time.
Japan's Kyodo News quoted a senior Japanese defense ministry official as saying that the Chinese aircraft spotted Thursday included J-7 and J-10 fighter jets.
However, the AFP reported that the Japan Coast Guard said Thursday evening they were not aware of any Chinese military aircraft in the area.
As of press time, the report hadn't been verified by the Chinese military.
Some media said it was the first report of Chinese military jets approaching the disputed Diaoyu Islands.
Last December, Chinese government planes were seen off the Diaoyu Islands several times, sometimes within the 12-nautical-mile maritime boundary of the islands.
An ADIZ is set up by a country or a regional bloc outside its territorial airspace, in which the administrator can scramble fighter jets to intercept unidentified flying objects in the interests of national security, a source from the Chinese People's Liberation Army air force, told the Global Times.
So far, only a handful of coastal countries, including Japan, have announced their own ADIZ.
The westernmost part of Japan's ADIZ is only 130 kilometers from China's coastline, the air force source told the Global Times.
However, the ADIZ cannot be regarded as one country's territorial airspace, and the country has no right to interrupt the flight route of any aircraft in the ADIZ, even if the owner of the aircraft didn't report to the ADIZ's administrator, the source said.
"According to both international laws and Japanese domestic laws, Japan's fighter jets have no right to harass the regular training of China's military aircraft," he stated.
China Central Television reported that Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga Thursday denied a report by the Sankei Shimbun newspaper, which said on Wednesday that the Japanese government was considering strengthening confrontation measures with China, including firing warning shots with tracer bullets against Chinese planes.
Meanwhile, China's State Oceanic Administration said Thursday that the country will continue to carry out regular patrols over its territorial waters off the Diaoyu Islands and the South China Sea.
"Faced with a sharper and more complicated situation, we will take on more responsibilities to steadfastly maintain the country's maritime rights and interests," Liu Cigui, director with the administration, told a national conference on maritime work.
AFP contributed to this story