Japan scrambled fighter jets against aircraft approaching its airspace a record 883 times over the nine months through December, with 73 percent of the incidents involving Chinese aircraft, the Defense Ministry said Friday.
The number was up 316, or 36 percent, from the same period the previous year.
If the trend continues, the number of incidents for the entire fiscal year through March is likely to top 1,000, exceeding the record 944 in fiscal 1984 during the Cold War, an official at the ministry’s Joint Staff Office said.
While no aircraft violated Japanese airspace during the nine-month period, the numbers indicate growing tension over Chinese military activities.
In December, Chinese naval vessels — including China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, and frigates — sailed between Okinawa’s main island and Miyako Island. Japan scrambled fighters after a helicopter took off from a frigate and flew to within 10 kilometers of Japanese airspace around Miyako.
Altogether, Japan scrambled fighters 644 times against Chinese aircraft over the nine-month period, 271 more than in the same period the previous year.
Japan also scrambled fighter jets 231 times against Russian aircraft. Six incidents involved Taiwanese aircraft.
Japan began announcing statistics on scrambles on a fiscal-year basis from fiscal 1958.