Fighter Jets From China, Japan, Face Off In Island Dispute

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I haven’t been following the tit-for-tat between China and Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea at all closely. Today’s news suggests that was a mistake and we should all be paying attention. Reuters:

China criticised Japan on Friday for “creating tension”, a day after China’s air force scrambled two fighters in response to a flight by Japanese jets, the latest incident between the countries following months of tension over disputed islands.

China scrambled two J-10 fighters on Thursday over the East China Sea after two Japanese F-15s followed a Chinese military plane “on routine patrol”, the Chinese Defence Ministry said in a statement on its website.

The Chinese Y-8 was flying over East China Sea oil and gas fields east of Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, when it was followed at close range by the Japanese planes, the ministry said. A third Japanese surveillance plane was flying nearby, it said.

…It was believed to be the first time Chinese jets had scrambled against Japanese military planes since tension flared last year over a series of small islands in the East China Sea claimed by both countries.

Japan’s military has sent up jet fighters several times in recent weeks to intercept Chinese planes approaching airspace over the islands, called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan.

The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he’ll offer a “sterner response” to the territorial dispute if it continues, and refused to negotiate with beiing over the islands. Abe has called for an expansion of the remit of the Japanese Defense Force to allow overseas intervention¬†operations and even nuclear weapons. He’s also said that Japan’s apology for taking sex slaves for its troops during WW2 may need revisited. I worry that such a man has command and control over armed aircraft in an escalating stand-off with China, to be honest, and doubt that the U.S. has him on a short leash. In the very first instance, the White House should tell him that if Japan initiates hostile fire it is on its own, the¬†same message as Obama is alleged to have sent Israel over Iran.

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