National

No Chinese jets scrambled: Japan

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera on Saturday denied Beijing’s claim that it scrambled fighter jets in response to Self-Defense Forces aircraft that had entered China’s new air defense identification zone, saying Tokyo has received no such reports.

“There have been no abnormal situations, such as (Chinese) aircraft suddenly approaching (SDF planes in the ADIZ), as announced by China yesterday,” Onodera, surrounded by reporters, said Saturday morning.

“We don’t have the impression that the Chinese side’s reaction has suddenly changed after the establishment of the air defense identification zone” in the East China Sea, Onodera said in footage aired by NHK.

Onodera at the same time said it is important for the two countries to “react calmly” to avoid “any unexpected events.”

Tokyo and Beijing are locked in a propaganda war over the new ADIZ. China argues foreign aircraft must comply with its rules and submit flight plans in advance. If they fail to do so, China has said it may take “defensive measures.”

In an apparent bid to show off the military and monitoring capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army, China said “fighter jets with the PLA Air Force on Friday morning took off in an emergency response to verify two reconnaissance aircraft from the United States and identify 10 Japanese planes,” the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Friday.

But officials in Tokyo have denied this claim.

“That (report) is a sheer fabricated story,” an unnamed government official was quoted as saying later in the day by Jiji Press.

The United States and Japan have rejected China’s ADIZ as a violation of international law and have been sending military aircraft into the zone without notifying Beijing beforehand.

In a related move Saturday, the Foreign Ministry said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has proposed to the International Civil Aviation Organization that member countries should discuss how to react to China’s establishment of the ADIZ, as it “is feared to threaten the order and safety of international civil aviation” in airspace over the East China Sea.

Tokyo made the suggestion at a meeting of the ICAO Council in Montreal on Friday, the ministry said. The Council consists of 36 countries, including Japan, the U.S, China, South Korea, Britain, Russia and Australia.

Despite the tough joint stance taken by Japan and the United States over the issue, Washington made a partial about-face Friday by urging U.S. commercial airlines to comply with Beijing’s demands to be notified in advance of flights through the ADIZ.

Attention will now focus on whether Tokyo, which has called on domestic airlines to ignore China’s ADIZ rules, will follow Washington’s lead.