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Japan summons Chinese ambassador over latest mid-air near miss

TOKYO -- Japan on Thursday summoned the Chinese ambassador as the two sides traded accusations of blame for a near miss involving fighter jets over the East China Sea, the second similar incident in less than a month.

In the latest confrontation in a long-running territorial dispute, Tokyo says two Chinese SU-27 jets flew as close as just 30 meters to its aircraft in a spot where the two countries' air defense zones overlap.

“It was an action that was extremely regrettable, and which cannot be tolerated,” said top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga, of the Wednesday incident.

It was the second time in less than three weeks that Tokyo has accused Beijing of playing chicken in the skies near the hotly contested Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyus.

“It comes after a similar event which occurred last month,” Suga said. “The government will continue urging China to prevent an accident and restrain itself.”

Japan's vice minister for foreign affairs, Akitaka Saiki, called the Chinese ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua, to the ministry, where he said similar manoeuvres “could lead to a real accident,” according to Kyodo News.

China hit back, insisting Japanese pilots had been at fault and that Tokyo was lying to the international community about China's behavior.

“Japan has hyped the claim that a Chinese fighter flew 'unusually close' to a Japanese surveillance plane, exaggerating China's military threat,” said a statement on the Chinese defense ministry website.

“The Chinese pilot's operation was professional, standard and maintained restraint. The Japanese pilot's practice was dangerous, and obviously provocative in nature.”

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Japan has “ignored the facts” and “hyped up this incident and the so-called China threat.”

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