Yesterday we showed how Russia and China hold "massive" naval drills in the northern part of the East China Sea (close enough to Japan for us to footnote "ahem Japan and Taiwan"), which in addition to a clear signal to the US (on part of Russia), was sending just as clear a message to Japan (on the part of China). Sure enough, overnight Japan was not too happy with this massive show of force by the two biggest and closest foes near its disputed territory. As a result it dispatched an OP-3C surveillance plane and a YS-11EB electronic intelligence aircraft. China promptly retaliated and as Reuters reports, it scrambled a Su-27, fully-armed with missiles, which came as close as 50 meters of the Japanese fighters - the closest Chinese warplanes had come to aircraft of Japan's Self-Defense Force according to Japan - in what can only be described as "please take the first punch."
A Chinese SU-27 fighter flies over the East China Sea, in this handout photo taken May 24, 2014 and released by the Defense Ministry of Japan May 25, 2014. Photo credit: Reuters
More from Reuters:
Japan and China on Sunday accused each other's air forces of dangerous behavior over the East China Sea, with Japan saying Chinese aircraft had come within a few dozen meters of its warplanes.
Japan was not happy:
Japan's defense minister accused Beijing of going "over the top" in its approach to disputed territory. China's defense ministry said Japanese planes had carried out "dangerous" actions during its joint maritime exercises with Russia.
Japan's defense ministry said Chinese SU-27 fighters came as close as 50 meters (170 feet) to a Japanese OP-3C surveillance plane near disputed islets on Saturday and within 30 meters of a YS-11EB electronic intelligence aircraft.
"Closing in while flying normally over the high seas is impossible," Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters in comments broadcast on TV Asahi.
"This is a close encounter that is outright over the top."
Onodera said Japan conveyed its concerns to the Chinese side through diplomatic channels. He also said the Chinese planes were carrying missiles.
A ministry official said it was the closest Chinese warplanes had come to aircraft of Japan's Self-Defense Force.
China was not happy either:
China's defense ministry said jets were scrambled in the East China Sea on Saturday after Japanese aircraft entered its air defense zone during maritime exercises with Russia.
The ministry said the Japanese aircraft had entered the zone despite "no fly" notices being issued ahead of the exercises. China declared its air defense zone last year despite protests by Japan and the United States.
"Japanese military planes intruded on the exercise's airspace without permission and carried out dangerous actions, in a serious violation of international laws and standards, which could have easily caused a misunderstanding and even led to a mid-air accident," the statement said.
China had proposed urgent talks, it said, and demanded that Japan "respect the lawful rights of China's and Russia's navies ... and stop all reconnaissance and interference activities. Otherwise Japan will bear any and all consequences from this".
Clearly China is not willing to take the next major, and lethal, step in the escalation of nationlistic tensions between the two nations. But if Japan is provoked to do it, well, so be it.