On Monday, China’s defense ministry issued a stern statement to Japan regarding a scramble of military aircraft that looks to heat up mounting tensions in the East China Sea tinderbox.
Two Japanese fighter jets took “provocative actions” at high speed flying directly towards a pair of Chinese fighter jets that were carrying out patrols over the contested region on June 17, the defense ministry said in a statement without specifying exactly where the incident took place.
Beijing alleges that the Japanese pilots used fire-control radar to “light up” the Chinese aircraft according to the statement. Japan’s senior military officer acknowledged there was a scramble, but denied any radar lock of the Chinese jet occurred or that the incident turned dangerous.
“The Japanese plane’s provocative actions caused an accident in the air, endangering the safety of personnel on both side, and destroying the peace and stability in the region,” China’s Defense Ministry said while arguing that the Chinese pilots “responded resolutely.”
The statement regarding the incident follows Japan’s top military commander accusing China of escalating military tensions in the East China Sea and acknowledging that Japanese ‘emergency’ scrambles to counter Chinese jets doubled over the past three months.
The two countries continue to clash over the ownership of a group of islands that lie about 220km (140 miles) northeast of Taiwan, known as the Senkakus in Tokyo and the Diaoyu Islands in Beijing.
China worries that a recent defense agreement signed between Washington and Tokyo that provides Japan with full and equal defense contracting privileges as American companies will result in a more militaristic policy from their neighbor and long-time foe.
Those concerns appear to be well placed with the United States, India and Japan engaging in massive naval exercises along China’s eastern flank as part of the Obama administration’s bid to encircle China.
The country also faces pressure over a separate batch of islands in the increasingly hostile South China Sea region. Several countries hold competing claims to the Spratly and Paracel Islands although under the Law of the Sea Treaty experts believe Beijing has the sole claim to the territory.
Despite China’s ironclad claim to those contested islands, Washington who refuses to sign onto the same Treaty continues to call on Beijing to observe the process laid out in the agreement while maintaining a constant naval presence in the region.