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Chinese jets' flight over sea prompts Japan to file protest

| Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 6:00 p.m.

TOKYO — Japan lodged a diplomatic protest with Beijing on Wednesday after Chinese military jets flew near Japanese military aircraft over the East China Sea, an official said.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said two Chinese SU27 fighters approached as close as 100 feet to Japanese aircraft that morning. The Chinese planes posed a danger to the Japanese aircraft, he said, and a serious incident could have occurred.

The Japanese planes were on a regular surveillance mission in international airspace, Onodera said, and Japan would continue to defend its territory.

Calls to the Chinese defense ministry's press office rang unanswered.

The countries have increased patrols by ships and military planes to press their conflicting territorial claims in the East China Sea. They had a similar incident on May 24.

Tensions between the Asian rivals worsened in recent years over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. Japan controls the islands, but China also claims them.

Japanese fighter jets were scrambled in response to foreign aircraft 810 times last year, more than half of them Chinese, according to a recent Defense Ministry report.

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