National

Top official denies claim that Chinese fighter was close to firing on ASDF jet

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

A senior government official on Wednesday flatly denied allegations written on a news website claiming that a Chinese fighter was close to firing on an Air Self-Defense Force jet that had been scrambled over the East China Sea.

Koichi Hagiuda, deputy chief Cabinet secretary and a close aide to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, denied the claim made by Kunio Orita, former head of the Air Self-Defense Force’s Air Support Command, on the Japan Business Press website.

According to Orita, the Chinese fighter made a threatening maneuver as if to attack the ASDF fighter. The Japanese pilot, he wrote, then left the area judging that staying could see the situation “develop into a dogfight and cause an unanticipated contingency,” Orita wrote.

Orita did not explain how he obtained the information or give a time or precise location of the incident.

Chinese fighter jets have frequently been making “provocative maneuvers that are extremely dangerous” over the East China Sea, Orita claimed in the article.

While Hagiuda admitted that an ASDF fighter had been scrambled on June 17 to check on a rapidly approaching Chinese military aircraft, he denied that the Chinese jet made “an attack motion” against the Japanese jet.

Asked if the Chinese jet had locked its missile radar on the ASDF fighter, Hagiuda said that such a move did not happen.

“Erroneous information like this was leaked to a retired (ASDF) person. … I personally consider the content of the column very regrettable because its credibility could greatly impact the international community,” Hagiuda said.

Asked if Tokyo had protested the alleged aggressive approach, Hagiuda demurred, saying that Tokyo didn’t “consider it as an extraordinary action” by a Chinese fighter.

Hagiuda, however, did note that the number of times Japanese fighters have been scrambled against Chinese jets has surged recently, hitting 571 in fiscal 2015.

Earlier this month, tensions between Tokyo and Beijing rose after a Chinese frigate entered the contiguous zone just outside Japanese territorial waters around the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

Later the same month, a Chinese navy reconnaissance vessel entered Japanese territorial waters near Kuchinoerabu Island off Kagoshima Prefecture, also drawing strong protest from Japan. That was just the second time since the end of World War II that a Chinese military ship entered Japanese waters.

Orita joined the ASDF after graduating from the National Defense Academy in 1974. A former F-4 fighter pilot, he became the commander of the Air Support Command in 2006 and retired in 2009.