A PLA J-10 fighter takes off. (Internet photo)
US aircraft were shadowed by Chinese fighters in airspace near the border between China and Japan on Jan. 10, reports the Global Times, a nationalistic Chinese tabloid.
A US Navy P-3C patrol plane based at Misawa Air Base and a US Air Force C-130 cargo plane based at Yokota Air Base were tailed by Chinese J-7 and J-10 fighters last week. When both American aircraft reached the air border between China and Japan on Jan. 10, Chinese fighters were scrambled to intercept them, according to Tokyo's Sankei Shimbun newspaper. The report said the PLA Air Force's move was an apparent overreaction to movement of aircraft taking off from Japanese bases.
On the same day, PLA fighters also appeared near the disputed Diaoyutai islands (Diaoyu in China or Senkaku in Japan). P-3C, EP-3 and OP-3 reconnaissance aircraft attached to Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force were dispatched to collect data on the Chinese aircraft. Two E-2C early warning aircraft were also deployed to prevent a direct confrontation between the PLA Air Force and Japan's Air Self-Defense Force.
On Jan. 11, China's defense ministry said that as Chinese aircraft were followed by two Japanese F-15J fighters first, the two PLA J-10 fighters were only sent as a response to observe Japanese jets close to Chinese airspace.
The Chinese foreign ministry claimed the fighters were only conducting routine patrols over the country's territory and denounced the decision made by Japanese to "escalate" the conflict over the islands in the East China Sea. Following Japan's move to nationalize several of the disputed islands in September, isolated but tense incidents between vessels and aircraft of the two nations have occurred regularly in the area.
While rumors circulate that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued orders to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force to fire warning shots on Chinese planes entering the Japanese Air Defense Identification Zone, PLA General Peng Guangqian told the state-run China News Service that if a Chinese aircraft were hit even with a flare, it would mean war. Peng said that it would be up to the PLA Air Force to determine what kind of weapon to use in response. The general stated that Japan gives China a perfect excuse to launch a war should it fire the first shot.
According to Peng, this prompted Abe's public denial of the rumors.
Peng Guangqian 彭光謙