Japan denies brush with Chinese planes

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Associated Press

In this undated photograph released by Japan's Ministry of Defence, a Chinese SU-27 fighter plane is shown. Picture: Japanese Ministry of Defence, via AP

Tokyo - Japan on Friday denied Beijing's claims that its Self-Defence Force planes came “dangerously close” to Chinese aircraft in an incident over the East China Sea on Wednesday, demanding China takes down the footage allegedly showing the incident.

On Thursday, China said two Japanese F-15 planes followed a Chinese Tu-154 aircraft and came as close as 30 metres, “seriously affecting China's flight safety”. It posted a video allegedly showing that incident on the defence ministry website.

“We believe there is no truth in China's assertions that Japanese fighter planes came within 30 metres of a Chinese plane and severely affected the flight's safety,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

“The airplanes (in the video) are different,” he said in response to a reporter's question about the rationale behind Japan's assertion, adding Japan lodged a protest late on Thursday and demanded that Beijing take down the footage.

The latest exchange followed a protest lodged by Tokyo on Wednesday, when Japan said Chinese fighter jets flew “abnormally close” to Japanese military aircraft over the East China Sea, a charge Beijing rejected accusing Tokyo of trying to “deceive international community”.

The row is the latest flare up in a long-running territorial dispute between Asia's largest economies. It follows a similar incident on May 24, when Japan said Chinese aircraft had come within a few dozen metres of its warplanes.

China lays claim to Japanese-administered islets in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. China declared its air defence zone covering most of the East China Sea last year despite protests by Japan and the United States.

Suga reiterated Japan's request to quickly establish emergency communication mechanism between the two countries so that they can deal with crisis situations.

Japan scrambled fighter jets against Chinese planes 415 times in the year ended in March, up 36 percent on the year, while in waters near the disputed islands, patrol ships from both countries have been playing cat-and-mouse, raising fears of an accidental clash. - Reuters


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