Beijing says Japan targeted its planes with 'decoy flares'

BEIJING • China has slammed Tokyo for targeting its military aircraft with "decoy flares" over a waterway near Japan, calling the actions "dangerous and unprofessional".

Two Japanese F-15s fired the projectiles as the Chinese planes passed through the Miyako Strait between Japan's Miyako and Okinawa Islands, the Defence Ministry said in a statement late on Saturday.

The incident took place on Saturday morning as the Chinese planes carried out "routine far seas training", the statement said.

The Chinese side added that its aircraft were in international airspace when the encounter occurred.

The Chinese jets were at that time taking part in long-range exercises over waterways near Taiwan.

"The actions of the Japanese fighters were dangerous and unprofessional and smashed the freedoms of navigation and overflight provided by international law," it said.

When contacted by AFP, neither the Japanese Defence Ministry nor the Prime Minister's Office could confirm the incident.

Taiwan's Defence Ministry said in a statement that China's drills lasted for about four hours and involved more than 10 aircraft, including four electronic surveillance planes.

Beijing, which has in recent years become more assertive in the western Pacific and South China Sea, has carried out similar exercises in the area since September.

Saturday's flights by Chinese jets were the first such flights since a telephone call between Taiwan's leader Tsai Ing-wen and US President-elect Donald Trump irked China.

China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own and has never renounced the use of force to take back what it deems a wayward province. Mr Trump's call with Ms Tsai on Dec 2 was the first between a US president-elect or president and a Taiwan leader since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition to China from Taiwan in 1979.

China lodged a diplomatic protest over the call and blamed Taiwan for what it called a "petty" move.

Separately, the official Xinhua news agency reported that China Coast Guard vessels conducted a routine patrol in the waters of the disputed Diaoyu Islands yesterday.

Japan and China are at loggerheads over a longstanding territorial row in the East China Sea. That dispute relates to uninhabited islets controlled by Japan known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2016, with the headline 'Beijing says Japan targeted its planes with 'decoy flares''. Print Edition | Subscribe