Japan scrambles jets after China plane flies by southern islands

TOKYO Wed Jul 24, 2013 9:10am EDT

A Chinese military plane Y-8 airborne early warning plane flies through airspace between Okinawa prefecture's main island and the smaller Miyako island in southern Japan, out over the Pacific, in this handout photo taken July 24, 2013 by Japan Air Self-Defence Force and released by the Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan. REUTERS/Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan/Handout via Reuters

A Chinese military plane Y-8 airborne early warning plane flies through airspace between Okinawa prefecture's main island and the smaller Miyako island in southern Japan, out over the Pacific, in this handout photo taken July 24, 2013 by Japan Air Self-Defence Force and released by the Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan.

Credit: Reuters/Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan/Handout via Reuters

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan scrambled fighter jets on Wednesday after a Chinese military aircraft flew for the first time through international airspace near its southern islands out over the Pacific, in a move seen by Japan as underlining China's maritime expansion.

Ties between China and Japan have been strained by a territorial dispute over uninhabited East China Sea islets and hawkish Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won a decisive victory in upper house elections on Sunday.

Japan's Defense Ministry said a Chinese Y-8 airborne early warning plane flew through airspace between Okinawa prefecture's main island and the smaller Miyako island in southern Japan out over the Pacific at around noon and later took the same route back over the East China Sea.

"I believe this indicates China's move toward further maritime expansion," Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters, in comments carried on public broadcaster NHK.

Chinese government spokesmen were not immediately available for comment.

The waters around the disputed islands, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, and which are to the west of Okinawa's main island, are rich fishing grounds and the sea floor around them could hold big oil and gas reserves.

Tension between China and Japan escalated last September when Japan bought three of the disputed islands from a private Japanese owner.

Since then, patrol ships and aircraft from both countries have been shadowing each other in the sea and skies around the islets.

That has raised fears of an unintended collision leading to a broader clash.

Abe has pledged to take a firm stance in the territorial dispute, but said in his news conference following the upper house election win that Japan's door was open to dialogue.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Robert Birsel)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (24)
Neurochuck wrote:
Following on from the Russians doing a huge air/sea assault exercise on Sakhalin Island just to the north of Japan, and a Chinese naval fleet sailing around the east coast of Japan, on the way back from joint exercises with the Russians.
It seems the neighbors are saying that Japan has plenty of old enemies with scores still to settle if Japan wants to go back to its past.
The Americans did the hard yards across the Pacific to actually defeat the Japanese Empire, so aren’t they supposed to keep a lid on this ?

Jul 24, 2013 8:55am EDT  --  Report as abuse
COindependent wrote:
@Neuro I do not understand how you can believe that the U.S., except under the terms of a mutual defense treaty, has any responsibility to get involved in this. China, Russia, and Japan are sovereign nations, and the U.S. can only influence their behavior. The U.S. cannot tell anyone nation what they can, or should (not), do.

It’s important to note that Japan maintains significant trade relations with both Russia and China, with massive manufacturing facilities in China as well. So any military action will have significant financial and trade impacts for all involved. The more the countries are linked by trade, the military posturing is most likely just that.

Moving to a shooting war is a significant threshold to cross with long term implications,measured in decades. It’s a no-win for all parties.

Jul 24, 2013 10:20am EDT  --  Report as abuse
china should invade Japan one day… maybe then Japanese people will understand how it feels when a nation’s women enslaved for releasing invading army’s soldiers’ sexual tension… it is a despicable act of slavery by japanese and if they find another chance they will do it again… it is like germans will do another holocaust… jews, koreans and chinese should be very careful against these sleeping monsters… we will never forget holocaust…

Jul 24, 2013 10:31am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Full focus