• Kyodo

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Japan has scrambled fighter jets against aircraft approaching its airspace a total of 30,000 times since the Air Self-Defense Force began its mission in 1958, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

The figure reached the milestone on Monday after hitting 20,000 in 2006 and 10,000 in 1983, according to the ministry.

“The number of scrambles in response to Chinese aircraft has increased enormously and the pace is quickening,” a Defense Ministry official said.

Scrambles by ASDF jets against Chinese aircraft have surged since around 2012 when the Japanese government brought the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea under state control, according to ministry data.

China claims the Japanese-controlled, uninhabited islands and calls them Diaoyu.

The number of scrambles, which topped 900 annually during the Cold War, declined following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Yearly figures ranged from 100 to 300 in the 1990s and 2000s, the data showed.

In fiscal 2016, the ASDF scrambled fighter jets a record 1,168 times, of which 851 were against Chinese aircraft. Scrambling is conducted to deter foreign aircraft from entering a nation’s airspace.

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