BEIJING: Japan’s increased scrambling of military aircraft in response to Chinese flights is endangering safety between the Asian powers in the air and at sea, Beijing’s defence ministry said on Thursday (Oct 30).
The defence ministry in Tokyo announced earlier this month that the country’s military had scrambled aircraft a total of 207 times to respond to incursions by Chinese aircraft between April and September, up from 149 cases during the same six-month period last year.
Asked about the Japanese statistics at a monthly press conference, Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) spokesman Yang Yujun said the numbers showed that Japan was endangering safety.
“These statistics themselves show that the frequency of Japanese military aircraft close-in surveillance and monitoring of Chinese military aircraft are on the rise,” Yang said. Such action “is the root cause for safety issues in the air and at sea between China and Japan”, he added. “We urge Japan to stop such dangerous activities.”
Beijing and Tokyo have been at loggerheads for two years over a longstanding territorial conflict, against a backdrop of Chinese anger over Japan’s aggression in the first half of the 20th century, although signs of a thawing have emerged in recent weeks.
Japan controls the uninhabited Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, which are also claimed by China which calls them Diaoyus, and the tensions have raised fears of armed clashes in the area.
Last month, however, senior officials of the two countries agreed to resume stalled talks over setting up a hotline between defence officials to prevent an unintended conflict.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping have not held formal talks, but the Japanese leader made brief contact with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang earlier this month at an international gathering in Italy, following other meetings involving senior officials and business leaders.
Last week, Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso and China’s Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli briefly chatted on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation finance ministers’ gathering in Beijing, ahead of the forum’s annual summit next month.
Speculation has increased that Abe and Xi may finally hold an official meeting of some kind on the sidelines of that event.