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Japan scrambles jets to Diaoyu isles

Japan scrambled fighter jets yesterday to head off a number of Chinese military planes  in its self-proclaimed Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) near the disputed Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, on the same day that China pledged to guard its maritime rights from being violated by Japan and two other countries.

The Chinese planes J-7 and J-10 fighter jets were spotted on Japanese military radar north of the islands, the Fuji TV network reported, quoting Japanese government officials.

They did not "violate territorial airspace" but flew inside Japan's "air defense identification zone," the report said.

The Japanese defense ministry press office did not confirm the report.

The Chinese planes were gone by the time F-15 jet fighters from an airbase on Okinawa reached the area, the report said. But the report hadn't been verified by the Chinese military.

On Wednesday, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper said the number of Chinese military planes nearing Japanese territory had increased since September when Japan is said to have "bought" them from a so-called private owner.

The paper said Japan's air force had scrambled fighter jets to intercept Chinese military aircraft numerous times over the past few months. Japanses defense officials said they could not confirm the report.

ADIZ is not territorial airspace

An ADIZ is set up by a country or a regional bloc outside its territorial airspace, in which the administrator can scramble fighter jets to intercept unidentified flying objects in the interests of national security, a source from the Chinese People's Liberation Army air force, told the Global Times.

So far, only a handful of coastal countries, including Japan, have announced their own ADIZ.

The westernmost part of Japan's ADIZ is only 130 kilometers from China's coastline, the air force source said.

However, the ADIZ cannot be regarded as one country's territorial airspace, and the country has no right to interrupt the flight route of any aircraft in the ADIZ, even if the owner of the aircraft didn't report to the ADIZ's administrator, the source said.

Meanwhile, Japan is today expected to approve a huge stimulus package aimed at breathing life into its flagging economy.

Around 180 billion yen (US$2.1 billion) of the total 20 trillion yen set to be announced is expected to be allocated to military spending.

A defense ministry spokesman said the cash would be used to buy missiles, helicopters and to refurbish fighter jets.

Yesterday, China said it would "steadfastly" oppose any infringement on the country's sovereignty over territorial waters by Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

The country will continue regular patrols over its territorial waters off the Diaoyu Islands and the South China Sea, Liu Caigui, director of the State Oceanic Administration, told a national maritime conference.

"Faced with a sharper and more complicated situation, we will take more responsibilities to steadfastly maintain the country's maritime rights and interests," Liu said.

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