On October 27, China’s Ministry of Defense (MOD) has accused the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) of unprofessional, dangerous, and provocative behavior during its encounter with China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), according to media reports.
“What is more, when aircraft of the Japan Self-Defense Forces encounter Chinese aircraft, their radars light up, they let off infrared jamming projectiles and show other unprofessional, dangerous provocative behavior,” Chinese defense ministry spokesman Wu Qian said during a press briefing this Thursday, Reuters reports.
“This endangers the safety [of] Chinese aircraft and personnel and is the root of the China-Japan maritime and air problem,” he added emphasizing that PLAAF activities in the region were in accordance with international law and established norms.
According to Japan’s Ministry of Defense, the PLAAF has stepped up its presence in the skies near Tokyo’s sovereign airspace over the last couple of months. Between April 1 and September 30, the JASDF had to scramble its jets 407 times to intercept PLAAF aircraft, an all-time high for a six-month period since the ministry began releasing data in 2001. In comparison, during the same period in 2015, the JASDF dispatched its aircraft 231 times in response to Chinese activities.
Tensions between the PLAAF and JASDF have been on the rise throughout 2016.
In June, Japan claimed that a PLAAF aircraft nearly fired at a JASDF fighter jet in the East China Sea. In July, China’s MOD accused Japan of aggressive behavior nearly resulting in a dogfight when two F-15 JASDF aircraft approached two Chinese Su-30 fighter jets over the East China Sea sand used their fire-control radars to lock on to the Chinese planes. Japan denied the allegations. In September, the PLAAF flew over 40 aircraft through the Miyako Strait in the East China Sea en route to the West Pacific, causing the JASDF to scramble a fighter jet in response.
During fiscal year 2015 the JASDF had to scramble its fighter jets 571 times to intercept Chinese military aircraft approaching or intruding Japanese airspace. (See: “Japan’s Fighter Jets Intercepted Chinese Aircraft 571 Times in 2015”). The JASDF Southwestern Composite Air Division reported an increasing Chinese military presence between the islands of Okinawa and Miyako in 2015 and 2016. As a result:
In February 2016, the JASDF stood up the new 9th Air Wing consisting of 40 Mitsubishi F-15J all-weather air superiority fighters at Naha Air Base, located in the capital city of Okinawa, in order to prop up the defenses of the Ryukyu Islands chain, a move widely seen as a response to China’s growing military assertiveness in the region (See: “Japan Forms New Air Wing to Fend Off Chinese Advances in East China Sea”).
Last year also saw an increase in Russian military activities near Japanese airspace. Russian military aircraft caused JASDF aircraft to take off 180 times, 72 times more than in 2015. The Russian Aerospace Forces are also currently standing up a new long-range Heavy Bomber Division in Russia’s Far East to patrol the Pacific Ocean inside the Japan-Hawaii-Guam triangle.
Neither Chinese nor Russian military aircraft entered Japan’s airspace in 2015 and 2016.