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article imageJapan sends F-15's to intercept Chinese aircraft near Senkakus

By Greta McClain     Dec 15, 2012 in World
In a continuing conflict over ownership of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, Japan launched fighter jets to intercept a Chinese aircraft flying just south of the disputed islands.
The small, twin prop Chinese Marine Surveillance Agency reconnaissance plane few into the area at a low altitude, eluding Japan's radar systems. The aircraft was spoted by Japanese Coast Guard vessels patrolling the area. The Coast Guard ordered the plane not to enter Japanese airspace and reported the sighting. A total of eight F-15 fighter jets were immediately dispatched to the area, however the Chinese aircraft was gone by the time they arrived.
Japan holds ownership over the islands, purchasing them in September for nearly $30 million from private Japanese citizens who had previously owned the small island chain. China however claims Japan purchased the islands illegally, saying China has owned the islands since ancient times. The Japanese government call the island chain Senkaku, while China refers to them as Diaoyu.
Japanese authorities called the incident and "unprecedented violation of their airspace". Osamu Fujimura, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, told the Japanese media:
"It was a fixed-wing Y-12 airplane belonging to the Chinese State Oceanic Administration. We confirmed that this airplane flew in our country's airspace. It is extremely regrettable. We will continue to resolutely deal with any act violating our country's sovereignty, in accordance with domestic laws and regulations."
Fujimura continued by saying any further incidents will be dealt with firmly and that the defense ministry will consider deploying E2C early warning aircraft and AWACS control planes in the area to ensure Japan's airspace is protected.
Two Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15 s
Two Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15's
Angelique Perez, U.S. Air Force
Voice of America reports that Hong Lei, a spokesman for ​​China's foreign ministry, says he has demanded the Japanese government discontinue "illegal activities in territorial aerospace and waters of the Diaoyu Islands, including withdrawing their aircraft." He also called having an aircraft in the area "totally normal".
The incident took place on the 75 anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre, when an estimated 300,000 Chinese civilians and soldiers were killed when the Japanese military entered Nanjing on December 13, 1937.
Kazuya Sakamoto, a professor at Osaka University, believes the incursion into Japanese airspace on the anniversary is significant and signifies a distinct escalation of the conflict. He told the Times of India:
"This is serious. {An} intrusion into Japan's airspace is a very important step to erode Japan's effective control over the area. If China sends a military plane as a next step, that would really make Japan's control precarious."
More about Japan, China, east china sea, Military, Fighter jets
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