| 7 December 2023, Thursday |

Japan scrambles jets after Russian ‘intelligence-gathering’ aircraft detected off its coast

The Japanese defense ministry announced on Thursday, that it had dispatched fighter jets in response to the sighting of Russian aircraft engaged in what was described as “intelligence-gathering” activities near Japan’s coastline. The Joint Staff of Japan released a concise statement stating that it had detected IL-20 Russian aircraft along the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan.
According to the statement, the military planes flew a round-trip from the Sea of Okhotsk to the Pacific while the other IL-20 flew toward the waters near Sado Island before turning toward the continent. The aircraft in question travelled from Japan’s north down along part of its west coast, while the other took a similar route along the opposite coast and returned the same way.

“In response, fighters of the Air Self-Defense Force’s Northern Air Force and other units were scrambled,” said the Japanese defence ministry. The brief statement did not give any further information about the incident.

This comes days after Japan hosted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky amid the Group of Seven (G7) summit, in Hiroshima. Similarly, last year, Chinese and Russian military jets carried out joint flights when Tokyo hosted the Quad Summit with the leaders of the United States, India, Australia, and Japan.

Japan has also recently joined its allies in the West to announce sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine which began over a year ago. In its latest security document, Tokyo, which had previously called to strengthen ties and cooperation with Moscow, had now warned of its military posturing in Asia and called its cooperation with China “a strong security concern”.

Meanwhile, Russia has also now dubbed Japan as a “hostile” country, a category which it now shares with the countries in the European Union, the US, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

Earlier this year, Moscow also carried out military exercises, where the Russian Navy, test-fired supersonic anti-ship missiles at a mock target in the Sea of Japan, which was some 100 kilometres away. The test was also conducted in late March, a week after two Russian strategic bomber planes flew over the Sea of Japan for more than seven hours in what Moscow said was a “planned flight”.

At the time, Japan’s foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, in his daily press conference said that Tokyo will be more vigilant against Russia’s military operations.

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