The government plans to beef up the Air Self-Defense Force’s surveillance ability, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Friday, a day after a Chinese airplane intruded into Japanese airspace for the first time on record.
“We will take all possible steps for the defense of our airspace,” Fujimura told a news conference.
The Defense Ministry is considering “more effective operations” of the ASDF’s airborne warning and control systems, as well as its E-2C early warning aircraft.
On Thursday, a Chinese government plane entered the airspace over the Senkaku Islands, which are claimed by Beijing, for the first time since the ministry started keeping such records in 1958.
Fighter jets were scrambled after the plane was spotted by the coast guard at 11:06 a.m. about 15 km south of one of the uninhabited islerts in the East China Sea.
Self-Defense Forces radar did not pick up the aircraft.
Fujimura said he believes the intrusion was another gesture by China to claim control over the disputed islands. The government will “firmly deal with any action that infringes on our country’s sovereignty,” he said.
On Thursday in Washington, Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae said he briefed U.S. officials on Japan’s response to the incident.
Sasae reportedly asked Washington to urge China to exercise restraint.
The United States has been firm in its position that the islets are subject to the bilateral security treaty, which obliges the U.S. to protect Japan if it comes under military attack, Sasae told a news conference.
Separately, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news conference that the U.S. view on the islets “hasn’t changed” in general.
“I would simply say that incidents like the one we’ve seen in the past 24 hours just underscore once again the importance of Japan and China talking to each other, working these issues through consensually,” she said.
On Friday, the coast guard said Chinese government ships were sailing near the islands for the fourth straight day.
Four maritime surveillance ships and one fishing surveillance vessel were seen in the contiguous zone just outside Japan’s territorial waters.
Coast guard cutters warned them not to enter the territorial waters. Chinese surveillance ships entered the territorial waters for the third straight day Thursday.
Chinese ships have frequently sailed near the islets since the government purchased three main islands in the group in September, effectively nationalizing the chain.