Japan claims Russian fighter jets breached its airspace
Washington, Feb. 8 : Japan has claimed Russian fighter jets intruded on its airspace for the first time in five years, raising tensions between the two countries.
The move comes at a time when Tokyo is already engaged in a similar high-stakes tangle with China.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Russia has, however, denied entering Japanese airspace.
Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Alexander Gordeyev said that flights of military aircraft are carried out in strict accordance with the international rules governing airspace and do not violate the border of other states.
Japan's foreign ministry said two Russian Su-27s violated airspace for just over a minute on Thursday near its northernmost main island of Hokkaido, and that Japan then scrambled four F-2 fighter jets.
The Japanese government launched a 'severe protest' with the Russian embassy, demanding Moscow to investigate the issue.
According to the report, the incident came on the day when the Japanese Government was set to carry out an annual rally demanding the return of territories that Russia took over from Japan at the end of World War II, and as Russia was conducting scheduled military exercises around those islands.
The dispute over the islands, called the southern Kuril Islands by Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, has kept the two countries from signing a peace agreement after World War II and continues to be a thorn in bilateral relations.
The alleged incursions come against the background of the new administration's efforts to expand the military's role in regional defense, including a 'collective self defense' to help repel an attack on U.S. forces deployed in Asia, the report said.
The alleged Russian intrusion comes fewer than two months after Japan publicly accused China of illegally entering its airspace, in mid-December, amid an escalating territorial row in the East China Sea, it added.