TOKYO: Japan yesterday summoned the Chinese ambassador, as the two sides traded accusations of blame for a near miss involving fighter jets over the East China Sea, the second similar incident in less than a month.
In the latest confrontation in a long-running territorial dispute, Tokyo says two Chinese SU-27 jets flew just 30 metres away from its aircraft in a spot where the two countries’ air defence zones overlap.
“It was an action that was extremely regrettable, and which cannot be tolerated,” said top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga, of the Wednesday incident.
It was the second time in less than three weeks that Tokyo has accused Beijing of playing chicken in the skies near the hotly contested Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyus.
“It comes after a similar event which occurred last month,” Suga said. “The government will continue urging China to prevent an accident and restrain itself.”
Japan’s vice minister for foreign affairs, Akitaka Saiki, called the Chinese ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua, to the ministry, where he said similar manoeuvres “could lead to a real accident.”
China hits back, insisting Japanese pilots had been at fault and that Tokyo was lying to the international community about China’s behaviour.
“Japan has hyped the claim that a Chinese fighter flew ‘unusually close’ to a Japanese surveillance plane, exaggerating China’s military threat,” said on the Chinese defence ministry website.
“The Chinese pilot’s operation was professional, standard and maintained restraint. The Japanese pilot’s practice was dangerous, and obviously provocative in nature,”
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Japan has “ignored the facts” and “hyped up this incident and the so-called China threat.”
“(Japan has) deliberately deceived the world. So we can’t help but wonder what is the true intention of Japan.”
The incident occurred as Japan and Australia held the fifth round of so-called “2+2” talks between their defence and foreign affairs chiefs in Tokyo.
The meeting was in line with a trend towards strengthening and political alliances in the Asia-Pacific, as countries look with alarm at China’s willingness to forcefully push its claims in territorial disputes. AFP