China criticises Japanese jet scramble over East China Sea

An F-15 jet in the air against a pinkish sky Image copyright KAZUHIRO NOGI/Getty Images
Image caption A Japanese F-15 fighter jet - China says two were involved in the incident

China has criticised what it called a "dangerous" Japanese jet scramble over disputed islands in the East China sea.

The Ministry of National Defence said on Monday that the Japanese jets had "lit up" the Chinese fighters with their fire-control radar.

A senior official in Japan previously confirmed the scramble took place, but denied the incident was dangerous.

Japan and China both claim ownership of islands in the area known respectively as the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands.

The Chinese defence ministry said in a short statement on its website that two Chinese Su-30 fighter jets were met with "provocative actions" from a pair of Japanese F-15 jets in the air defence identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea on 17 June.

It said that the Chinese jets were on a routine patrol when they were approached "provocatively" and at high speed by two Japanese planes, who "even went so far as to start "lighting up" the Chinese planes with their fire-control radar."

The statement said the Chinese jets responded "decisively", without going into further details of how, and that the Japanese jets deployed an infrared decoy projectile before flying away.

Prior to the release of the Chinese statement, the Japanese press reported that Japan's deputy chief cabinet secretary confirmed that a scramble had taken place but denied that either side had acted aggressively.

This contradicted remarks that had been made by a retired Japanese air force official, who had alleged that the Chinese fighters had made a threatening manoeuvre towards the Japanese plane.

Japan's top military commander recently revealed that Japanese emergency scrambles to counter Chinese jets had almost doubled over the past three months.

The BBC has contacted the Japanese Defence Ministry in the light of the new Chinese allegations, but has yet to receive a reply.

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