Japan and US hold joint drill amid island dispute
TOKYO - Agence France-PresseU.S. and Japanese fighter jets carried out joint air exercises yesterday, days after Chinese and Japanese military planes shadowed each other near disputed islands in the East China Sea.
The five-day exercise, carried out over Pacific waters off the coast of Shikoku, the fourth largest of Japan’s islands, involves six U.S. FA-18 fighters and around 90 American personnel, along with four Japanese F-4 jets and an unspecified number of people. It comes weeks after hawkish new premier Shinzo Abe won an election landslide following campaign promises to re-invigorate Tokyo’s security alliance with Washington and take a more robust line against Beijing.
It also comes as a stand-off between China and Japan over the sovereignty of the disputed East China Sea islands shows no signs of letting up.
Tokyo reportedly scrambled fighter jets on Jan. 10 to head off Chinese military planes in an area adjoining the airspace of the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, which Beijing claims as the Diaoyus. A Chinese defense ministry official later said two J-10 fighters flew to the area to monitor two Japanese F-15 fighters that had trailed a Chinese Y-8 aircraft.
On Jan. 13, Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force carried out the nation’s first military exercise designed to recapture “a remote island invaded by an enemy force.”
The row between Asia’s two largest economies over the uninhabited, but potentially resource-rich islands blistered in September when Tokyo nationalized three of them. Chinese ships have repeatedly gone to the archipelago’s territorial waters since then.