According to Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi, Japan scrambled jets as Russian and Chinese warplanes approached its airspace on Tuesday, while Tokyo was hosting the leaders of the Quad grouping of nations, which includes the United States.
Tokyo expressed ‘grave worries’ to both Russia and China through diplomatic channels, Kishi said during a news conference that was live-streamed online. He described the episode as a possible provocation by both Beijing and Moscow on a day when US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Australia’s newly elected leader, Anthony Albanese, were meeting in Tokyo.
‘We feel that the fact that this action was performed during the Quad Summit makes it more inflammatory than in the past,’ he added, adding that it was the fourth such occurrence since November. According to Kishi, two Chinese aircraft flew over the Sea of Japan from the East China Sea, and were subsequently joined by two Russian jets for a flyback into the East China Sea.
Later, the two Chinese jets were replaced by another pair thought to be Chinese, which then flew with the Russians on a long journey into the Pacific Ocean, he claimed. According to him, a Russian surveillance jet flew over the open sea from Hokkaido’s northern island to Japan’s main island’s Noto peninsula. He claimed that none of the planes entered Japanese airspace.
Russia and China both confirmed a coordinated patrol. According to Russia’s defence ministry, the patrol lasted 13 hours over the Japanese and East China seas. The drill was part of an ‘annual military cooperation plan,’ according to China’s defence ministry. Separately, South Korea’s military said it scrambled jets after at least four Chinese and four Russian warplanes crossed its air defence zone on Tuesday.
It was unclear whether the two incidents were connected or whether any of the same aeroplanes were involved. On Tuesday, the four leaders of the Quad, an informal organisation chaired by Washington, reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific area in the face of an increasingly aggressive China.