A Chinese aircraft approached the disputed Senkaku Islands on Dec. 22, prompting Self-Defense Force fighter jets to be scrambled, days after China’s first intrusion into Japanese airspace around the islands.
The propeller-driven aircraft, from the State Oceanic Administration, was the same type that entered Japanese airspace near the East China Sea islands on Dec. 13, the Defense Ministry said.
On that occasion, ground radar did not detect the plane and SDF fighters were dispatched too late to intercept it, revealing problems in Japan's air defense.
This time, the SDF, which was on alert after the incident, acquired the aircraft with its radar system, and Air SDF fighter jets took off from Naha Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture to intercept it.
The aircraft was flying 100 kilometers north of the Senkaku Islands, within Japan’s air defense identification zone, around noon, and then changed course. The Foreign Ministry, via the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, warned the Chinese foreign ministry not to enter Japanese airspace.
The SDF has been on heightened alert around the Nansei Islands by deploying early-warning aircraft and other systems. After the Dec. 13 intrusion, Shigeru Iwasaki, the chief of joint staff of the Self-Defense Forces, vowed to correct the problems with their inadequate response.
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