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China, Japan trade charges over air force plane encounter

13 June 2014

China's Ministry of National Defence yesterday accused Japan of increasing tensions, rejecting Tokyo's account of the latest close encounters between military aircraft from the two increasingly estranged countries, The New York Times reported.

Though China's official rejection of the Japanese version of events came as no surprise, the wording from Beijing showed the gave an indication of the bitterness that had built up between the two countries.

According to the Chinese defence ministry spokesman, senior Colonel Geng Yansheng, in two incidents on Wednesday, Japanese military aircraft flew ''abnormally close'' to Chinese air force planes, a claim that was in total opposition to that of Japan's defence ministry.

US officials are worried over a possible escalation of tensions from an untoward event in the area.

''For some time, Japan has engaged in close-up tailing, monitoring and interfering with Chinese vessels and aircraft, risking the safety of the vessels and aircraft,'' Geng said in a statement posted on the ministry's website.

Japan's behaviour, he said, had ''malign intentions and totally exposed its hypocrisy and two-facedness in relations with China.''

According to the Japanese defence ministry, on Wednesday morning Chinese fighter jets flew close to two Japanese propeller-driven reconnaissance airplanes over the East China Sea.

The ministry added, the aircraft flew so close that the crew of one Japanese craft photographed what appeared to be missiles on the underside of the jets.

Denying the reports Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Thursday that Japanese aircraft had approached a Chinese plane, and Japan stood by the version it had given Wednesday - that two Chinese SU27 fighters had posed a danger to Japanese aircraft by flying near them, AP reported. He added, Chinese criticism was irrelevant.

After Japan lodged a diplomatic protest with Beijing over the incident on Wednesday, its foreign ministry summoned China's ambassador on Thursday.

In response, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters, ''China strongly opposes and protests Japan's act of ignoring the facts, shifting the blame onto the victim, aggressive slandering and hyping the so-called China threat.''

A group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by the Chinese have been a bone of contention between the two Asian rivals. The islands are controlled by Japan but China also claims them.

The two countries had stepped up patrols by ships and military planes to press their conflicting territorial claims. A similar incident had been reported on 24 May.

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