Japan dispatched fighter jets to pursue Chinese aircraft flying close to its airspace 415 times over the past year, up about a third from the previous year, the Ministry of Defense said yesterday in a press release on its website.
The increase comes amid a territorial dispute between Asia’s two largest economies over a chain of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. Coast guard ships from both countries also tail one another around the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
The total number of times Japanese jets were sent up reached 810 in the year to the end of March, compared with 567 in the previous year. Dispatches against Chinese aircraft made up 51 percent of the total, with the bulk of the remainder against Russian planes and nine against North Korea, according to the press release.
China this week accused Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of taking provocative actions around the islands and Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, said April 8 that the country would never back down on its territorial claims. Chang made his remarks at a press conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in Beijing, who reiterated that the U.S. was committed to defending Japan in the event of a conflict.
“Great powers must resolve their disputes peacefully and responsibly,” Hagel said. “Strengthening the peace and avoiding conflict requires leadership and it requires cooperation, requires courage, requires reaching out.”
The only recorded incursion into Japanese airspace in the past year was made by a Russian aircraft, the ministry said.