Japan has scrambled jets after two Russian fighter planes entered Japanese airspace on Thursday.
According to The Japan Daily Press, Tokyo has accused Russia of violating Japanese airspace near the island of Hokkaido. Officials in Japan have lodged an official protest with Russia over the incident, Japan’s Kyodo news service reports.
The Russian government denies the allegations and says the jets were taking part in military maneuvers close to the Kuril Islands, a region occupied by Russia since the Second World War. However, Japan also claims the Kurils, referring to them as the Northern Territories.
Four Japanese F-2 fighter jets were scrambled by Japan after a pair of Russian SU-27 fighters appeared in Japanese airspace for under sixty seconds on Thursday, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Japan is no stranger to territorial disputes in recent years. The East Asian country has an ongoing territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands (which China calls the Diaoyu Islands). Tensions between the two nations grew on Thursday after a Chinese navy ship allegedly put a radar-lock on a Japanese vessel in the East China Sea.
Narushige Michishita, a Northeast Asia security expert at Japan’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, told UPI that Russia was using the Senkaku Islands disagreement to its own advantage:
“Certainly, they are testing us and using the opportunity created by the Chinese diversion. The Russians know that whatever they do, it will not look as bad as what the Chinese are doing.”