Japan has strongly protested against China on Monday (12 December) after Beijing accused that Tokyo engaged in "dangerous and unprofessional" behaviour by scrambling its fighter jets over important waterways. Japan said the allegations were groundless and were factually wrong.

The Japanese Self-Defence Forces scrambled two F-15 fighter jets over the weekend as six Chinese warplanes flew over the Miyako Strait between Okinawa and Miyako islands. According to a statement from the China's defence ministry on 10 December, Japan's jets shadowed China Air Forces' "routine" training exercise in the West Pacific, resulting in a close encounter.

"I have received a report from the defense minister that the Japanese planes did not conduct any close-range interference toward the Chinese military planes ... or threaten the safety of Chinese military planes or its personnel," Reuters cited Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga as saying on Monday.

"The fact that China's military unilaterally announced something clearly different from the facts is extremely regrettable and harms the improvement of relations between Japan and China, and we have strictly protested to the Chinese side," he said.

Japanese jets were reportedly scrambled after Chinese jets flew north to south and entered the Miyako Strait around Japan's southern islands on 10 December. Beijing slammed Tokyo saying it conducted "close range interference", firing jamming shells and allegedly jeopardising the security of Chinese aircraft and pilot.

It is reported that such decoy flares are typically used by a pilot to draw away an incoming missile.

The communist country raised "grave concerns" over the incident and lodged a protest over Japan's behaviour, following which it urged Tokyo to stop interfering with its high sea training. China's defence ministry also called on its neighbour to avoid such incidents in the future and to respect the "overall interest of China-Japan relations".

China claimed its military exercise was in line with related international laws and practices.

In response to China's protest, Suga said Japan would be watchful of China, while claiming that Beijing's military actions are "expanding and increasing" near Okinawa and Miyako islands. He added that Tokyo is taking every effort towards firmly protecting its sovereignty and territory in accordance with international and domestic law. He also warned to take severe measures against China if it invades Japan's airspace.

Japan and China Trade Blame over Fighter Jets\' Close Encounter
Japan and China trade blame over fighter jets' close encounter over Miyako and Okinawa islands Reuters file photo