Saturday, December 15, 2012

Spooked by Chinese intrusion, Japan vows to beef up airspace security

Japan plans to strengthen its air surveillance capabilities, the top government spokesman said Friday, a day after the first-ever intrusion into the country's airspace by a Chinese government aircraft.

"We will take all possible steps for the defense of our airspace," Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a news conference, noting the Defense Ministry is considering "more effective operations" of the Air Self-Defense Force's Airborne Warning and Control Systems, as well as E-2C airborne early warning planes.

On Thursday, a Chinese marine surveillance plane entered Japanese airspace over the Senkaku Islands, which are claimed by Beijing, for the first time since the ministry started keeping such records in 1958.

Japanese fighter jets were scrambled after the plane was spotted by the country's coast guard at 11:06 a.m. about 15 kilometers south of one of the uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

But Self-Defense Force radar did not pick up the aircraft.

Fujimura said he believes the airspace intrusion by China was aimed at claiming control over the Japanese-administrated islands, adding that the government will "firmly deal with any action that infringes on our country's sovereignty."

Gen. Haruhiko Kataoka, chief of staff of the Air Self-Defense Force, also told a separate news conference that he will "thoroughly consider what kinds of arrangements are needed."

Meanwhile, China's Foreign Ministry on Friday said it is necessary to send marine surveillance planes into the airspace over the disputed islands, which are known in China as Diaoyu, in order to safeguard Chinese sovereignty over them.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei made the remarks while commenting on Japan's protest over the incident, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.

"The Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islets, including the sovereignty of the waters and airspace over the region, belong to China," Hong was quoted as saying.

He accused Japan of "illegally" deploying ships and planes to the disputed waters and airspace since September, saying China had demanded a halt to the activities but Japan had failed to respond.-Interaksyon (December 15, 2012 12:20PM)

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