Japan's air force scrambled fighter jets to chase away foreign aircraft 561 times in the first half of fiscal 2017 through September, down 33 times than last year’s record-setting figure, the Defense Ministry said Friday.
The number of incidents involving Chinese aircraft totalled 287, down 120 from the previous year, the ministry says. A record 851 jets were sent to approach Chinese planes, or 280 more instances than in the corresponding period last year.
However, the ministry says despite the fall, it documented a slight increase in “unusual” flights by China – an increase to 14 from nine cases last year, including a case in which a drone-like object entered Japan's airspace around islands disputed by China.
Scrambles against Russian aircraft, meanwhile, jumped to 267, or 48 percent of the total, up 87 times year-on-year in the same period.
Last year, Japan's Air Self Defence Force scrambled fighters 1,168 times, the most since records began being kept in 1958, besting the previous high of 944 — a figure that came at the height of the Cold War in 1984.
The uptick in Chinese activity has contributed to rising tension in East Asia since the start of the year as North Korea pushes ahead with ballistic missile and nuclear bomb tests that have stoked fears in Japan, the United States and elsewhere.