Japan scrambles jets over China drone flight near disputed islets

Posted May 20, 2017

Two Chinese fighter jets intercepted an American military plane over the East China Sea, the US Air Force said Friday.

The incident occurred a day after two Chinese Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets intercepted a US Air Force WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft while it was flying in worldwide airspace above the East China Sea.

The WC-135 crew characterized the intercept as unprofessional "due to the maneuvers by the Chinese pilot, as well as the speeds and proximity of both aircraft", Hodge said.

The face-off is said to be another sign that Japan is on high alert over China's growing military assertiveness in the disputed territories and farther into the Pacific.

Mid-air interceptions occur routinely in global airspace, but the USA military will often call out foreign pilots if it judges the maneuvers to be risky or unprofessional.

Unexpected and unsafe intercepts involving U.S. and Chinese military aircraft have occurred occasionally over the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety. This is a new form of activity by China.

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Japan has strongly protested the recent Chinese incursion.

Japan on Thursday lodged a protest with China after four Chinese coastguard vessels entered what Tokyo considers its territorial waters near disputed East China Sea islets and a drone-like object flew near one ship, the Japanese government said.

Tokyo has responded to Chinese intrusion in the contested waters some 13 times since the start of this year, Reuters cited Japan's coastguard as saying.

Japan Air-Self Defense Force scrambled two F-15 fighter jets, one E-2C early warning aircraft and an AWACS surveillance plane in response to the deployment of a drone-like object in the island that China calls as Diaoyu and Japan as Senkaku.

In 2013, China declared a formal Air Defense Identification Zone covering airspace over the islands and overlapping with airspace claimed by Japan.

"On top of that, there appears to have been a flight of a drone".

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The move prompted an outcry from Japan and the United States, but a USA report a year ago suggested that it was not being fully enforced.

Japan's Defense Minister Tomomi Inada.

"A drone flight from a Chinese government ship that entered our territorial waters is totally unacceptable as we think it will lead to the escalation of the situation".

"This is not a military action as has been hyped up by some media", Hua told a daily news briefing.

Lodging a protest by phone, Kenji Kanasugi, director-general of the Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, told Liu Shaobin, minister at the Chinese embassy in Tokyo, that Japan can not tolerate the activity that is feared to worsen the situation.

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