Jun 13, 2014
Japan Protests Chinese Flybys Over East China Sea
In two separate episodes on Wednesday morning, Chinese Su-27 fighters flew dangerously close to two Japanese propeller-driven reconnaissance airplanes in skies over the East China Sea.
The flybys are the latest escalation in an increasingly tense test of wills between China and Japan for dominance of the East China Sea, which includes a group of uninhabited islets that both nations claim. Japan took control of the island group when it was a rising imperial power in the late 19th century, but now a newly resurgent China wants to regain what it sees as stolen territory.
The ministry said the Japanese planes had returned safely to base, though the faster Chinese jets came close enough that the crew of one Japanese craft photographed what appeared to be white missiles on the underside of the jets.
A similar encounter took place late last month, when Chinese fighter planes flew as close as 100 feet to Japanese reconnaissance planes in the same area.
Japan’s Defense Ministry said the incidents had taken place in airspace where both nations claim overlapping “air defense identification zones” — areas bordering sovereign airspace where foreign aircraft were required to identify themselves and to provide flight plans. Japan has ignored the Chinese air zone since Beijing declared it late last year.
The flybys could be a sign that China has begun trying to enforce its air zone.