Japan scrambles jets against China military planes near disputed islands

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan scrambled fighter jets on Thursday to head off a number of Chinese military planes near islands at the centre of a territorial dispute, Japanese media said.

The Chinese planes were spotted on Japanese military radar north of the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, known as the Diaoyus in China, the Fuji TV network reported, quoting Japanese government officials.

They did not violate territorial airspace over the islands but flew inside Japan's so-called air defence identification zone, the report said.

The Japanese defence ministry press office did not confirm the report.

The Chinese planes were gone when F-15 jet fighters from an airbase on Japan's main Okinawan island reached the area, the report said, adding the Chinese flights continued until about 5:00 pm local times.

Chinese government ships and planes have been seen off the disputed islands numerous times since Japan nationalised them in September, sometimes within the 12 nautical-mile (22 km) territorial zone.

Japan dispatched fighter jets last month after a Chinese state-owned plane breached airspace over the islands.