Japan Reports Record Interceptions of Chinese Military Aircraft over East China Sea
Japan reports a record number of aerial interceptions by fighter jets of its Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) of aircraft from the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) venturing too close to its airspace over the East China Sea or the Sea of Japan.
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From the start of the year until March 31, JASDF had to warn-off more and more Chinese military aircraft and a few other foreign aircraft, mainly Russian military planes.
A record number of 851 interceptions of approaching PLAAF planes were made by JASDF jets, mostly Mitsubishi F-15J air superiority fighters. This total was 280 more compared to the corresponding period last year.
The new figure also beats the previous high of 944 incidents in 1984, involving mostly Russian aircraft. What's also worrying Japan today is the increasing aggressiveness of aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces based in the Russian Far East to the west and north of Japan.
The latest government figures showed JASDF encounters with Russian military aircraft rose by 4.5%. Russia usually flies bombers from the north to avoid Japanese airspace.
All Russian Air Force units in the Far East are assigned to the 3rd Air and Air Defense Forces Command with headquarters in Khabarovsk, the second largest city in the Russian Far East. Khabarovsk is also headquarters of the Russian Eastern Military District responsible for all Russian military forces in Asia.
Japanese records show that over the past 12 months (March 2016 to March 2017), JASDF scrambled its F-15J air superiority fighters 1,168 times compared to 873 times in the same period for 2015 to 2016.
Japan is concerned the stepped-up pace of PLAAF air patrols that come close to but don't violate Japan's airspace are also meant to test the air defenses protecting Tokyo, apart from challenging Japan's claim to own the disputed Senkaku Islands.
Japan this year is massively boosting its defense spending as a result of Chinese aggression. The country has approved a record defense budget of $42.5 billion for the 2017-2018 fiscal year beginning April.
The increase in the defense budget is the fifth straight in the five years since Shinzo Abe became Prime Minister in December 2012. It reflects Abe's hawkish views on defense issues, and contributes to his long-term goal of freeing the Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) from the constitutional shackles that have bound it to a doctrine of self-defense since after World War II.