TOKYO (TIP): Japan on Thursdayprotested against what it said was aviolation of its northern airspace bytwo Russian fighter jets engaged inwhat may have been a calculatedrebuke of Japanese territorial claims.The brief incursion, whichprompted Japan to scramble its ownfighters in response, comes as Japantries to manage a more seriousterritorial confrontation with Chinain the sea to its south.
Tokyo onTuesday accused the Chinese navy ofaiming a weapons-targeting radar at aJapanese warship.Japan’s defence ministry said theRussian Su27 jets entered Japaneseairspace for a little over a minute onThursday afternoon near RishiriIsland, a small volcanic island off thenorthwestern tip of Hokkaido, in theSea of Japan between Japan andRussia.The claim was disputed by Russia’sdefence ministry which confirmedthat its air force was involved inmanoeuvres in the area.
“All flights of the district’s aircraftare strictly regulated by the commandand are carried out under supervisionof air traffic control bodies,”Alexander Gordeyev, a defenceministry spokesman told newswireInterfax. “Military aircraft flights areregistered by objective controlequipment and are carried out instrict accordance with internationalregulations on using airspace,without violating borders of otherstates.”
Feb 6 was “Northern TerritoriesDay” in Japan, a governmentsponsoredevent held to press Japan’sdemand for the return of the SouthKuriles, a group of islands offnortheastern Hokkaido that wereannexed by the Soviet Union at theend of the second world war.Shinzo Abe, Japan’s newly electedprime minister, attended a gatheringin Tokyo to mark the day, where hesaid he was “trying to find a solutionacceptable to both sides”. Mr Abe, anationalist, promised duringparliamentary elections in Decemberto take a tougher stand on territorialdisputes.