Jets scrambled as Japan's PM Abe warns China
By Harumi Ozawa , AFPTOKYO--Japan's leader warned China on Sunday against forcibly changing the regional balance of power, as reports said Tokyo had scrambled fighter jets in response to Chinese military aircraft flying near Okinawa.
October 28, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
Verbal skirmishing between Asia's two biggest economies, who dispute ownership of an island chain, escalated as Beijing warned Tokyo that any hostile action in the skies against Chinese drones would be construed as an “act of war.”
“We will express our intention as a state not to tolerate a change in the status quo by force. We must conduct all sorts of activities such as surveillance and intelligence for that purpose,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in an address to the military.
“The security environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe. This is the reality,” he said. “You will have to completely rid yourselves of the conventional notion that just the existence of a defense force could act as a deterrent.”
Abe presided over an inspection of the military at which a U.S. amphibious assault vehicle was displayed for the first time, an apparent sign of Japan's intention to strengthen its ability to protect remote islands.
The defense ministry plans to create a special amphibious unit to protect the southern islands and retake them in case of an invasion.
“There are concerns that China is attempting to change the status quo by force, rather than by rule of law,” Abe earlier told the Wall Street Journal in an interview following a series of summits this month with regional leaders.
“But if China opts to take that path, then it won't be able to emerge peacefully,” he said in the interview published Saturday.
“So it shouldn't take that path, and many nations expect Japan to strongly express that view. And they hope that as a result, China will take responsible action in the international community,” Abe added.
On Sunday Jiji Press and Kyodo News reported that Japan had deployed jets for two days running in response to four Chinese military aircraft flying over international waters near the Okinawa island chain.
Two Y8 early-warning aircraft and two H6 bombers flew from the East China Sea to the Pacific Ocean and back again but did not violate Japan's airspace, the reports said.