Japan scrambled fighter jets yesterday after an unidentified drone flew near Japanese-controlled islands at the centre of a dispute with China, Japan's Defence Ministry said.
It was the first reported incident of its kind. The Japan Air Self-Defence Force sent an unspecified number of jets to the area, a ministry spokesman official said. The drones did not enter Japanese airspace, he said.
A second defence ministry official said the nationality of the drone was not clear, but added that it came from the northwest and was last seen flying back in that direction.
China does have drones but when asked about the incident, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said: "I am not aware of the situation."
On Sunday, Japan scrambled fighter jets against two Chinese bombers that flew from the East China Sea into the Pacific, through a gap between islands in the Okinawa chain, Tokyo said.
A spokesman for China's Ministry of National Defence said the bombers were conducting routine training over the Western Pacific. "It is a routine arrangement that is included in [our] … annual plan. It does not target any country or object. It is in line with relevant international laws and norms," the spokesman said in a statement.
"China has the right to fly its planes through the waters, and the Chinese military will continue such operations in accordance with its plan."
And two weeks ago, fighters were dispatched to head off a Chinese government plane flying towards the Diaoyus Islands, which are known as the Senkakus in Japan.
A Y-12 propeller plane flew about 100 kilometres from airspace around the islands on August 26, before heading back towards China after Japan's military planes became airborne.
Friday's reports came as four Chinese coastguard ships sailed in the so-called contiguous zone that surrounds territorial waters around the islands.