Japan, South Korea send military aircraft into China's air-defense zone


This picture taken on March 5, 2003 shows U.S. B-52 bombers at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.


Mario Villafuerte

Japan and South Korea said Thursday they had flown military aircraft into China’s new air-defense zone in defiance of rules imposed by Beijing in the East China Sea.

The announcement came days after the US sent two B-52 Bombers into the airspace over disputed islands known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan. 

In response to the recent Japanese and South Korean incursions, Beijing sent warplanes to the contested air-zone, according to state media reports.

China's Xinhua news reportedly quoted air force spokesman Col. Shen Jinke, saying fighter jets and other aircraft had been sent to the area for routine patrols as "a defensive measure and in line with international common practices." Xinhua also quoted Jinke as saying the aircraft would "strengthen the monitoring of targets in the air defense zone and do their duty."

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Its neighbors and the US have vowed to ignore Beijing’s demands, which have raised tensions in the region. China’s announcement is seen as an attempt to solidify its claim to the islands, which are administered by Japan.

Japan’s top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, said Thursday Japan had sent an unspecified number of patrol planes into the zone without incident. He did not say when they had flown. South Korea said its military aircraft entered the area on Wednesday and met no interference from China. 

The long-running dispute between China and Japan over the islands has intensified in the past 12 months and observers fear the war of words could escalate into a full-flown conflict if either side makes a military or political misstep.

Over the past year, Chinese ships have been sailing in and out of Japanese territorial waters, and Japan has scrambled fighter jets in response to Chinese military aircraft flying into Japanese air space with alarming frequency.

In recent weeks, China accused Japan of “dangerous provocation” after a Japanese naval and air patrol got too close to a Chinese live ammunition drill. Beijing was left fuming after Japan placed missiles on the islands as part of a huge military drill.

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