ASDF scrambled jets against Chinese planes 287 times from April to December

JIJI, Kyodo

The Air Self-Defense Force scrambled aircraft against Chinese planes threatening to enter Japanese airspace a record 287 times in April-December last year, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

The figure is up significantly from the previous record of 160 for the same period in 2012. The ministry began releasing this data in fiscal 2001.

In the nine months, the ASDF jets were scrambled 563 times, up by 214 from the previous year, with China topping the list of countries on the receiving end, followed by Russia at 246 times, up from 180, and North Korea nine times, up from zero.

Between October and December, the ASDF dispatched jets against Chinese aircraft 138 times, second only to the 146 in the first three months of last year.

The ministry has been closely monitoring Chinese air activity amid heightened tension over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, especially after China included airspace above the islets as part of an air defense identification zone it designated in November.

The ministry, which has released scramble data for every three-month period since fiscal 2005, said ASDF fighters responded to Chinese aircraft that came close to Japanese airspace 69 times from April to June, and 80 times from July to September.

Many of the Chinese aircraft of concern during the latest period were fighters.

The ASDF scrambled fighters against Russian aircraft 110 times from October to December, compared with 105 times during the preceding three months.