China’s air patrols with Russia spark Japanese security concerns

China completed a second phase of joint air patrols with Russia over the Western Pacific on Wednesday, following flights on the previous day over the Sea of Japan and East China Sea, prompting concerns in Japan over national security.

Both South Korea and Japan scrambled fighter jets on Tuesday, when the Chinese and Russian joint patrols got underway as part of their militaries’ annual cooperation plan.

The flights are a “serious concern” for Japan’s national security, and those concerns were conveyed to China and Russia through diplomatic channels, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday.

“Such repeated joint flights by the strategic bombers of the two countries in the vicinity of our country signify the expansion of activities in the vicinity of our country, and are clearly intended to act arbitrarily against our country,” Matsuno, the government’s top spokesperson, said.

On Tuesday, South Korea scrambled fighter jets after four Russian and four Chinese military aircraft entered its air defense zone in the south and east of the Korean peninsula.

Japan’s military said it had scrambled fighter jets after verifying that two Russian bombers had joined two Chinese bombers over the Sea of Japan and flown together as far as the East China Sea on Tuesday.

There are no international rules governing air defense zones, unlike a country’s airspace. China previously said its patrols with Russia had not targeted any third party.

The latest round of air patrols were the sixth conducted by Russia and China since 2019, coming at a time of rising tensions in the Asia-Pacific region as the United States and other countries ramp up defense-related activity.

Security concerns in northeast Asia have recently been further stoked by North Korea’s attempt to send its first spy satellite into space.

The China-based ambassadors of Japan, the United States and South Korea held their first trilateral meeting recently, the Japanese embassy in Beijing said on Wednesday, and “extensively” exchanged views on the regional situation.

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