The Air Self-Defense Force scrambled aircraft a record 83 times against Chinese aircraft from April to September, reflecting more aggressive intelligence-gathering efforts by China's air force.
The figure is about three times the number of ASDF scrambles in the same period for fiscal 2010 and approaches the 96 times that were recorded in all of the previous fiscal year.
Defense Ministry officials released the figures on Oct. 13 for scrambles against aircraft of other nations during the first half of this fiscal year.
A total of 203 scrambles were made during the first half, an increase of 17 over the same period the previous year.
The number of scrambles against Russian aircraft continued to be the largest, at 106, but that represents a decrease of 43 scrambles over the previous year.
The 83 scrambles against Chinese aircraft greatly exceeds the 24 in the first half of last year. It is even greater than the 72 times ASDF aircraft were scrambled in the second half of fiscal 2010, when relations with Beijing deteriorated after a Chinese trawler rammed two Japan Coast Guard ships in waters near the disputed Senkaku Islands.
The figure for the six-month period is the highest since such half-year statistics have been compiled from fiscal 2003 and exceeds the full fiscal year figures of 43 for 2007, 31 for 2008 and 38 for 2009.
Defense Ministry officials said they could not confirm if any Chinese aircraft violated Japanese airspace.
Ministry officials said China was strengthening its intelligence-gathering and electronic warfare capabilities.
In the East China Sea, there have been cases of Chinese surveillance aircraft flying into Japan's Air Defense Identification Zone, which triggers scrambles by ASDF aircraft, and approaching the median line between Japan and China. Sources said the objective of such flights was to eavesdrop on electronic signals.
On Sept. 8, a Chinese Y-8 surveillance aircraft flew over the median line and approached airspace above the Senkaku Islands.
That same day, a squadron of Russian bombers taking part in a massive training exercise over the Pacific also flew a route over the entire Japanese archipelago for about 14 hours.
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