Chinese marine surveillance planes from the State Oceanic Administration flew over the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands on Thursday morning, joining now regular Chinese naval patrols of the region.
Patrol ships from the two countries have been shadowing each other since then in a standoff that has raised concern that a collision could escalate into a clash. Thursday’s incident was the first time both sides used aircraft in the dispute.
“Despite our repeated warnings, Chinese government ships have entered our territorial waters for three days in an row,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osama Fujimura told reporters.
“It is extremely regrettable that, on top of that, an intrusion into our airspace has been committed in this way,” he said, adding that Japan had formally protested through diplomatic channels.
Japan’s military scrambled eight F-15 fighter jets, the Defence Ministry said. Japanese officials later said the Chinese aircraft had left the area.
It was the first time a Chinese aircraft had intruded into Japan’s airspace near the disputed islands, Japan’s Defence Ministry said.
The above photos of the diminutive, unpopulated islands give a good impression of what it is the two most powerful countries in Asia are on the verge of fighting over: nothing.