China, Japan in Air Duel Over Disputed Isles

BEIJING (TIP): A day after China’s top leader Xi Jinping asked the People’s Liberation Army to intensify its “real combat” awareness and “military readiness” in view of its tension with Japan over disputed islands, Japan on Thursday scrambled eight of its F-15 fighters to counter any possible threat from a Chinese aircraft that flew in close to Japan-controlled Diaoyu island. The move alarmed Washington and several other capitals.

The day also happened to be the 75th anniversary of the Nanjing massacre by Japanese soldiers, and the Chinese government aircraft flying close to the disputed island was seen in Tokyo as a violation of Japan’s airspace. This is the first military move by China after Xi Jinping recently took the post of the Central Military Commission. Analysts said the fact that the Chinese aircraft flew in towards Japanese waters just days ahead of general election in Japan reflected Beijing’s worry that the vocally anti-China leader Shinzo Abe might get elected as the next PM. Japan described China’s action as “highly deplorable” .

The Chinese ambassador in Tokyo was also summoned to hear a formal Japanese protest . But the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the action was “completely normal” because the area belonged to China. “The Diaoyu islands and affiliated islands are part of China’s inherent territory,” he said. “The Chinese side calls on Japan to halt all entries into water and airspace around the islands,” Hong said. The action may have future implications for China’s neighbours including India because Beijing might flex muscles in areas of South China Sea, which is being disputed between China, Vietnam and the Philippines. Beijing insists that India withdraw from oil exploration in the disputed area of South China Sea. Japan is already under strain after the satellite on Wednesday by North Korea, which has been antagonistic towards Tokyo.

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