The Japanese government issued a sharp rebuke to China claiming the latter's fighter jets flew dangerously close to Japan’s military aircraft over the East China Sea on Wednesday, media reports said, citing Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.
The Japanese defense minister reportedly told visiting Australian Defense Minister David Johnston that the Chinese Su-27s "flew so recklessly” that the pilots of the Self-Defense Forces considered it to be a threat. According to reports, there were two Su-27 fighters that flew as close as 30 meters to a Japanese military plane over the East China Sea.
"I would like the Chinese military authorities who allow this kind of dangerous behavior to take place to behave morally," Onodera said, according to Reuters, adding that neither the planes nor the pilots suffered any damage or injuries.
According to reports, this is not the first time that Japan has complained of a Chinese jet flying too close to a Japanese aircraft. On May 26, Japanese officials claimed that a Chinese aircraft came within a few dozen meters of its warplanes.
China has a long-running dispute with Japan and several Southeast Asian states over islands in the South China Sea, most of which it claims as its sovereign territory. A set of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are administered by the former and claimed by the latter.
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“Beijing sees that Japan’s China policy has seriously regressed and the ball is in Japan’s court,” Liu Jiangyong, professor of international relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing said, according to Bloomberg. “The overall tension is likely to continue to linger and the two countries have reached a crossroads.”
Beijing's recent deployment of a giant oil rig in a disputed portion of the South China Sea between the Paracel Islands and the Vietnamese coast, gave rise to tensions between China and its neighbors. Taiwan, Brunei, the Philippines and Malaysia also claim parts of the South China Sea.