China calls on Japan to reduce jet scrambles

Reuters News

4/18/2013 4:35:59 AM - Reuters News

BEIJING (Reuters) - China called on Japan on Thursday to stop sending jets up against Chinese aircraft after Japan said it had scrambled its fighters twice as often in the past year amid a territorial dispute.

The number of scrambles against Chinese planes nearly doubled to 306 in the year that ended in March. That accounted for the increase in the overall number from 425 to 567, the highest level in 22 years, Japan's Defense Ministry said.

China and Japan have been involved in an increasingly acrimonious stand-off over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

"We all know that when it comes to the Diaoyu Islands issue Japan has been continuously taking provocative actions to raise tensions. This is the root cause of the present very tense situation over the islands," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.

Japan, she said, should instead "show more sincerity and take practical steps to work hard with China to find a way to appropriately manage and resolve the problem through dialogue, talks and consultations. This would be best for both countries."

The waters around the disputed islands are rich fishing grounds and have potentially huge oil and gas reserves.

The dispute has escalated in recent months to the point where China and Japan have scrambled fighter jets while patrol ships shadow each other, raising fear that an unintended collision could lead to a broader clash.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ron Popeski)