Photo: Wikimedia Commons
As if Japan didn’t have enough on its national defence plate before, two Russian Su-27s allegedly slipped Thursday into its airspace. Tokyo’s now scrambling jets to chase off Russia, while maintaining a territorial feud with China.Japan’s island dispute with China has been simmering for months, deep to the south off Okinawa and into the East China Sea, but now it looks like Russia could press its own dispute with Tokyo.
The AFP reports that the pair of Su-27s were picked up on radar off the coast of northernmost Hokkaido island for over a minute. The incursion came after Japan’s new prime minister Abe said he wanted to work on the Russian dispute to the satisfaction of both countries.
Abe’s referring to a decades old territorial dispute with Russia and a long overdue peace treaty Tokyo would like to sign with Moscow.
Reuters now reports that Russia has flatly denied the trespassing accusation while acknowledging it’s been conducting military maneuvers throughout the area all week.
The intrusion is supposed to have unfolded on Japan’s “Northern Territories Day”, where rallies and demonstrations are held calling for the return of the Japanese islands.
The dispute stems from the Russian seizure and population of northern Japanese islands in the waning days of WWII.
Soviet forces seized the isles, which stretch out into rich fishing waters off the northern coast of Hokkaido, in the dying days of WWII and drove out Japanese residents.
The islands were later re-populated by Russians but remain a poor and undeveloped part of the country
So Thursday in northernmost Hokkaido—where the temperature will reach a low today of 10 degrees Fahrenheit—demonstrations fuelled by 60 years of anger took place nearly within sight of major Russian military maneuvers.
The timing of each could be entirely unrelated, but coming together like this it’s not altogether surprising accusations are flying.
And it’s not as though this is the first time Japan has responded to Russian aircraft encroaching on its airspace. A 2011 Wall Street Journal piece points out the island nation scrambled jets against Russia 106 times that year.
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