Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Beijing and Tokyo are inching closer to
military confrontation over a group of islands in the East China Sea after China
yesterday sent two J-10 fighter jets to monitor Japanese military planes near the
disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.
China's action comes in the wake of statements by Japanese Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe who reiterated his hard-line position, saying that "There
is no room for negotiations".
"What happened on Thursday is a potential crisis leading to a military
clash between the two countries," said Antony Wong Dong, president of the
Macau-based International Military Association.
In Beijing, a Ministry of National Defence spokesman slammed Japan for
stepping up its aerial surveillance of the disputed islands, which disturb "the
normal patrols and training of Chinese civilian and military aircraft".
Citing Japanese Defence Ministry officials, Kyodo News reported that "several" PLA fighter jets had
been spotted inside Japan's "air defence identification zone", but
had not violated Japan's territorial air space.
Such events have been reoccurring in the past few months, as Tokyo and
Beijing push their respective claims to the islands in the East China Sea by
sending Navy vessels, coastguard ships, fishing trawlers and now aircraft.
More recently, Japan's Defence Ministry began envisaging the possibility
of authorising its planes to shoot at Chinese aircraft should they violate
Japan's air space.
"China may be testing the waters to see how Japan will respond now that
the Abe administration has taken over," an article in the Mainichi Shimbun suggested.
"It appears that the purpose [of the frequent intrusions by ships
and aircrafts] is to put pressure on Japan to acknowledge the existence of a
territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands."
Known by the Chinese as Diaoyu and Senkaku by the Japanese, the islands have
been in dispute for many years.
More recently, the Japanese government bought the islands from a private
owner. For China, this was a "provocation", further exacerbated by Tokyo's
decision to send planes over the area. In response, China sent its own planes for
the first time since 1958.
The value of the islands remains unclear. They are strategically located
because they are in the middle of major sea routes. The waters offer rich fishing
grounds and the seabed around the islands could hold important natural gas
In 2008, as a token of détente, the two governments signed an agreement
for joint development and research on the islands, but it was never