79% rise in scrambles against China planes

TOKYO - Japanese fighter jets scrambled against Chinese planes a record number of times in the April-December period, Japan's defence ministry said yesterday.

Japan scrambled combat planes against Chinese aircraft 287 times in the nine-month period, a record high and up 79 per cent from the same period a year earlier.

The two powers are locked in a bitter row over a group of uninhabited East China Sea islets called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Ties deteriorated further recently after China's launch of an air defence identification zone over a large swathe of the East China Sea including the disputed islets, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's controversial visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, seen by critics as a symbol of Japan's past military aggression.

The number of scrambles against Russian planes during the same period grew 37 per cent from a year earlier to 246 times. Japan and Russia are embroiled in a dispute over several islands seized by Russia towards the end of World War Two. Japan calls the disputed islands the Northern Territories, and Russia administers them as the Southern Kurils.

REUTERS