- Title: VARIOUS: Japan protests after Chinese plane flies over disputed isles
- Date: 13th December 2012
- Summary: AT SEA (FILE - OCTOBER 2006) (REUTERS) SQUADRON OF JAPANESE F-15S FLYING OVERHEAD
- Embargoed: 28th December 2012 12:00
- Location: At Sea, Japan, China
- Country: Japan China At Sea
- Topics: International Relations,Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA9VIRY6X2LHJYH5UXHLHDTPTEW
- Story Text: Japan protested to China on Thursday (December 13) after a Chinese government plane entered what Japan considers its airspace over disputed islets in the East China Sea, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.
The incident prompted Japan's military to scramble six F-15 fighter jets and divert two in addition to a radar and surveillance plane, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said.
"The Japanese Air Self Defense Force, as a normal measure, diverted two F-15 fighters already on patrol to the area around the Senkaku islands to deal with airspace intrusions. In addition Six F-15 fighters and one E-2C (radar plane) were scrambled from the Naha Air Self Defense Force base," Fujimura said.
Japanese officials later said the Chinese aircraft had left the area.
Sino-Japanese relations took a tumble in September after Japan bought the tiny islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, from a private Japanese owner.
"The fact that intrusions into our waters have continued to take place, and on top of that now this airspace intrusion has happened is extremely regrettable. The foreign ministry's under-secretary has summoned the Chinese ambassador in Tokyo and voiced protests. We have conveyed our strongest protests through diplomatic channels," Fujimura said.
A Defence Ministry spokesman said as far as he knew it was the first time this year that a Chinese plane had intruded into airspace near the islands.
The incident comes just days before a Japanese election that is expected to return to power the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) with hawkish former prime minister Shinzo Abe at the helm.
Abe has vowed to take a stern stance in the dispute over the islands, which are near potentially huge maritime gas reserves, and has said that the ruling Democratic Party's mishandling of its diplomacy had emboldened China.
Abe has also promised to boost spending on defence including on the coast guard.
Smaller Asian countries such as the Philippines have also become increasingly worried about Beijing's growing military assertiveness and its claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea.
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