Chinese fighter jet over the East China Sea
File image of a Chinese SU-27 fighter jet over the East China Sea, released by the Defense Ministry of Japan. Reuters/Defense Ministry of Japan

Japanese government said Wednesday that the growing activity by China and Russia in the region has led to an increase in the number of scrambles by the country’s warplanes. The number of scrambles was almost as high as that during the Cold War era, the Japanese military said, in a statement, according to reports.

During the 12-month period through March 31, the Self Air-Defense Force scrambled its jets 943 times, just one short of the 1984 record. The defense ministry stated that there were 133 more scrambles than the previous year, the Associated Press (AP) reported. Most of the scrambles were fighter jets trying to reach the disputed East China Sea -- the region that has soured the relations between China and Japan.

While Japanese defense forces reportedly made 464 scrambles against Chinese aircraft, an increase of 49 times from the previous year, none of the Chinese scrambles violated the Japanese airspace. China is currently increasing its defense spending by more than 10 percent a year, Reuters reported, while Japan is also trying to increase its military budget, but at a slower pace. In 2004, Japan’s military had conducted only 141 scrambles.

The ministry said there were repeated flights by Chinese aircraft near the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, which lies between the East China Sea and the Pacific, the AP reported.

Russian jets often enter the Japanese air space near the latter's northern Hokkaido Island and four smaller islands, which are claimed by both Japan and Russia. Russian activity around Japan was reported in April last year after North Korea conducted its missile launch in March and joint military drills carried out by the U.S. and South Korea around the same time, AP reported.