TOKYO • Japan yesterday said it has protested to China over a Chinese complaint that Japanese fighter jets had engaged in "dangerous and unprofessional" behaviour when they scrambled at the weekend as Chinese aircraft flew near Japanese islands.
Chinese military aircraft last Saturday flew between Japan's Okinawa and Miyako islands, and over waterways near Taiwan - seen by Beijing as a renegade province - as part of long-range exercises, Taiwan said.
Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said in a statement last Saturday that two Japanese F-15 fighter jets flew over the Miyako Strait and conducted "close- range interference", firing decoy flares and "jeopardising the security of Chinese aircraft and pilots".
Mr Yang said China had grave concerns and lodged a protest over the behaviour of the Japanese aircraft during what he called "routine" drills in international waters. But Japan rejected China's assertion.
"I have received a report from the defence minister that the Japanese planes did not conduct any close-range interference towards the Chinese military planes... or threaten the safety of Chinese military planes or their personnel," Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
"The fact that China's military unilaterally announced something clearly different from the facts is extremely regrettable and harms the improvement of relations between Japan and China, and we have strictly protested to the Chinese side."
Mr Suga said Japan would watch the actions of the Chinese military, "which are expanding and increasing", and make every effort towards "firmly protecting our country's land, sea and air space, and, in accordance with international and domestic law, take strict measures against any invasion of our airspace".
In Beijing yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang urged Japan to take steps to prevent "safety problems on the sea and in the air". He did not elaborate.