Eight Chinese warplanes were spotted flying over the Korean Strait close to Japanese islands on Monday, prompting Japanese and South Korean air forces to scramble their fighter jets.
The People’s Liberation Army aircraft, including six H-6 strategic bombers, one Shaanxi Y-8 early-warning plane and a Shaanxi Y-9 intelligence-gathering aircraft, flew over the Tsushima Strait, in the eastern channel of the Korean Strait, towards the Sea of Japan, turned around to the north of Oki Island, in Shimane prefecture, and then flew back over the East China Sea, NHK TV channel reported, citing Japan’s Ministry of Defence.
Although Japanese fighter jets were scrambled, the Chinese aircraft did not violate Japanese airspace, the Japanese ministry added.
However, the Chinese aircraft also flew within South Korea’s air defence identification zone, near Socotra Rock – a submerged rock located off the southern coast of Jeju Island – which China refers to as Suyan Rock, Yonhap news agency said.
This led South Korea to scramble 10 of its fighter jets, including F-15Ks and KF-16s, in the area and also send a warning signal to the Chinese planes, the report said.
China’s muscle-flexing comes after China’s only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was spotted cruising into the Western Pacific Ocean, through the waterway between Okinawa and Miyako Island, on December 25.
On January 3 the carrier’s J-15 fighter jets made their South China Sea debut.
Monday’s flight was the first time since last August that an H-6 strategic bomber had been detected flying over the strait, the Japanese ministry said.
Tensions between China and Japan have intensified since Beijing established an air defence identification zone over the East China Sea in November 2013, following Japan’s nationalisation of the disputed Senkakus islands, which China calls the Diaoyus.
Earlier in January, Japan scrambled its fighter jets after six Chinese aircraft were spotted flying over the Miyako Strait near Okinawa.