Japan on Friday denied Beijing’s claims that its Self-Defence Force planes came “dangerously close” to Chinese aircraft in an incident over the East China Sea on Wednesday, and demanded China take down the footage allegedly showing the incident.
On Thursday, China said two Japanese F-15 planes followed a Chinese Tu-154 aircraft and came as close as 30 metres, “seriously affecting China’s flight safety”.
It posted a video on the defence ministry website allegedly showing the incident in an area where the two countries air defence identification zones overlap.
“We believe there is no truth in China’s assertions that Japanese fighter planes came within 30 meters of a Chinese plane and severely affected the flight’s safety,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.
Watch: Japanese F-15 fighters tailed a Chinese TU-154 plane
“The airplanes [in the video] are different,” he said in response to a reporter’s question about the rationale behind Japan’s assertion, adding that Japan had lodged a protest late on Thursday and demanded that Beijing take down the footage.
The latest exchange followed a protest lodged by from Tokyo on Wednesday, when Japan said two Chinese Jian-11 fighter jets from the PLA Air Force flew “abnormally close” to Japanese military aircraft over the East China Sea.
Beijing rejected this charge while accusing Tokyo of trying to “deceive [the] international community”.
A Chinese defence ministry spokesman, Geng Yansheng, dismissed that claim, saying “the guilty party files the suit first”, according to a statement.
Geng said two Chinese Tu-154 jets were tailed by a pair of Japan Air Self-Defence Force F-15 jets before 10.30am on Wednesday “as close as 30 metres”.
Later the same morning, two Japan Air Self-Defence Force reconnaissance planes entered China’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ), prompting the People’s Liberation Army to scramble two Jian-11 fighter jets to check their identities, Geng said in the statement.
“[PLA jets] kept a distance of at least 150 metres from the Japanese planes,” the statement continued, adding that the Chinese pilots were “professional”, whereas their Japanese counterparts were “provocative”.
The row is the latest flare-up in a long-running territorial dispute between Asia’s largest economies. It follows a similar incident on May 24, when Japan said Chinese aircraft had come within a few dozen metres of its warplanes.
China lays claim to Japanese-administered islets in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. China declared its air defence zone covering most of the East China Sea last year despite protests by Japan and the United States.
Suga reiterated Japan’s request to quickly establish emergency communication mechanism between the two countries so that they could deal with crisis situations.
Japan scrambled fighter jets against Chinese planes 415 times in the year ending in March, up 36 per cent on the year, while in waters near the disputed islands, patrol ships from both countries have been playing cat-and-mouse, raising fears of an accidental clash.
Additional reporting by Minnie Chan