Japan scrambled fighter jets yesterday to head off several Chinese military planes near the disputed Diaoyu Islands, Japanese media said.
The Chinese planes were spotted on Japanese military radar north of the islands, known in Japan as the Senkakus, the Fuji TV network and Kyodo news agency reported, quoting Japanese defence ministry officials.
They did not violate territorial airspace over the islands but flew inside Japan's so-called airdefence identification zone, the report said.
The Japanese defence ministry's press office did not confirm the report.
The Chinese planes were gone when F-15 jet fighters from an airbase on Japan's main Okinawan island reached the area, the report said.
Chinese government ships and planes have been seen off the islands numerous times since Japan nationalised them in September, sometimes within the 12 nautical-mile territorial zone.
The coastguard said yesterday evening they were not aware of any Chinese military aircraft in the area.
On Wednesday, the conservative Sankei Shimbun daily reported that the number of Chinese military planes nearing Japanese territory had increased since Japan nationalised the islands.
The paper said Japan's air force had scrambled fighter jets to intercept Chinese military aircraft numerous times over the past few months. Defence officials said they could not confirm the report.
F-15s were sent airborne to head off Chinese state-owned - but not military - planes four times in last month, the defence ministry has said.
They were also mobilised once last week, it said.