Japan scrambled fighter jets to the skies above the disputed Diaoyu Islands after it alleged that a Chinese surveillance plane violated its airspace on Thursday, according to The New York Times:
In an embarrassment for the current administration, Japan’s radar systems failed to detect the Chinese surveillance plane Thursday morning, and Tokyo became aware of its presence only after a Japanese Coast Guard ship spotted it near the islands. By the time fighter jets were dispatched to the area from their base in Naha, on the island of Okinawa, the Chinese plane was nowhere to be seen, a Defense Ministry official said.
With the Japanese jets yet to arrive, the Coast Guard was left on its own to confront the Chinese plane. “Do not intrude into Japanese airspace,” the crew of one of its ships radioed the plane, according to the public broadcaster NHK.
“This is Chinese airspace,” the plane’s crew radioed back, according to NHK.
Tensions between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands, known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands, spiked in September when Japan’s central government agreed to purchase three of the islets from their private Japanese owners. A string of anti-Japanese demonstrations ensued across China, even turning violent as angry protesters targeted Japanese-owned businesses and products.
While China and Japan have run patrol ships around the islets over the past few months, Thursday marked the first time aircraft had been used by both sides. A Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman called the surveillance flight “completely normal” in a Thursday press conference, reiterating China’s stance that the islets are part of Chinese territory and urging Japan to cease its infringement on the territory. A Japanese government official fired back , according to The South China Morning Post:
“Despite our repeated warnings, Chinese government ships have entered our territorial
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