Japan fighters head off Chinese plane over Diaoyu

Source:AFP Published: 2013-1-5 23:26:01

Japan scrambled fighter jets Saturday to head off a Chinese State-owned plane that flew near islands at the center of a dispute between Tokyo and Beijing, a Japanese Defense Ministry spokesman said.

The Japanese jets were mobilized after a Chinese maritime aircraft ventured some 120 kilometers north of the Diaoyu Islands, which Japan calls the Senkaku islands, at around 12 pm, the spokesman said.

The Chinese Y-12 twin-turboprop later left the zone without entering "Japanese airspace" over the islands, he was quoted as saying.

It was the first time Japanese fighter jets had been scrambled this year to counter Chinese aircraft approaching the islands, the spokesman said.

The confrontations have become commonplace since Japan "nationalized" the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea in September, a move China calls illegal and Japan insisted amounted to nothing more than a change of ownership of what was already Japanese territory.

China's maritime surveillance plane first entered the airspace over the Diaoyu Islands on December 13, while Chinese government ships have moved in and out of waters there for the past few months.

China's defense ministry on December 27 said the Chinese military "closely monitors" and is "highly vigilant" concerning relevant Japanese Air Self-Defense Force activity in the airspace over the Diaoyu Islands, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

"We will decisively fulfill our tasks and missions while coordinating with relevant departments such as maritime supervision organs, so as to safeguard China's maritime law enforcement activities and protect the country's territorial integrity and maritime rights," Ministry of Defense spokesman Yang Yujun was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

"China-Japan defense relations are an important and sensitive part of bilateral ties, and the Japanese side should face up to the difficulties and problems that currently exist in bilateral ties," Yang said, according to Xinhua.

Related story: Japan likely to build up defense spending due to Diaoyu Islands row

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