In May of this year, Chinese JH-7 fighter bombers conducted a drill in the East China Sea simulating targeting destroyers belonging to Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF).
“The government considers this move an extremely dangerous military action. It could have led to unexpected circumstances,” Japanese government sources were quoted as saying by The Japan Times.
The May incident involved multiple JH-7s approaching two MSDF escort vessels sailing near a contentious gas field on the Chinese side of Tokyo-proposed median line separating the two countries’ economic zones.
“The Chinese aircraft came close enough to put the vessels within striking distance of anti-ship missiles,” the sources added.
The bombers did not engage in a radar lock-on of the vessels, making it impossible for the MSDF to discern the intentions of the approaching aircraft.
Japan intercepted transmissions from the Chinese aircraft saying that they were engaging in “attack drills targeting MSDF vessels.” After analysing the intercepts, the flight paths of the Chinese jets and other radio information emitted from the aircraft, the government concluded that the exercise was one aimed at targeting the vessels.
Japan has neither protested nor brought the incident to the public eye in order to keep Tokyo’s intelligence-gathering and analysis capabilities under wraps, the report said.