Japan scrambles military jets in response to Russian and Chinese aircraft approaches
Japanese fighter jets are being scrambled at a level not seen since the height of the Cold War in response to Chinese and Russian aircraft approaching its airspace, the Defence Ministry has said.
Jets were scrambled 943 in the 12 months leading to 31 March – only one less than the record set in 1984 and a 16 per cent increase on the same period the previous year, the country's Self Defence Force said.
"It represents a sharp increase," an SDF spokesman told a news briefing.
A total of 464 scrambles were made by the Japanese air force in response to Chinese fighter jets approaching the disputed East China Sea islands – a cause of diplomatic dispute between the two neighbours.
The number represents a rise of 49 times compared to a year earlier.
None of the Chinese aircraft violated Japanese airspace however, the ministry said. Which countries have nuclear weapons?
Russian activity meanwhile was mainly seen as reconnaissance around Japan in April last year, following North Korea's missile launch and US and South Korean military exercises at around the same time.
Japan had scrambled as few as 141 in 2004 before China's growing military activity in the area led to a sharp increase.
China has also boosted its defence spending by more than ten per cent this year.
Russia's activity meanwhile has also gathered pace since it annexed Crimea from Ukraine last year.
Admiral Samuel Locklear, the commander of US forces in the Pacific, said Russian activity had almost returned to Cold War levels in the past few months.
Meanwhile, Japan has also increased its defence spending, although by a smaller margin than China, in order to buy longer-range patrol aircraft, cargo jets, helicopter carriers and Boeing V-22 Ospreys and Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighters.
Independent News Service