Japan says it scrambled fighter jets on Tuesday to respond to the approach of Russian and Chinese warplanes near its airspace, in what Tokyo called a “provocation” as it hosts a meeting of world leaders including Joe Biden.
Addressing a virtual press conference, Japanese defence minister Nobuo Kishi said that the move by Beijing and Moscow was likely planned to coincide with Japan’s hosting of the Quad meeting with its allies the US, Australia and India.
Tokyo is hosting its first ever informal gathering of Quad nations, which has seen leaders of all four nations — Fumio Kishida, Joe Biden, Anthony Albanese and Narendra Modi — meeting in the city.
Mr Kishi said Japan has expressed “grave concerns” to Russia and China over the movement of warplanes threatening its airspace, reported AFP.
He added that at least two Chinese bombers joined two Russian bombers in the Sea of Japan and “made a joint flight to the East China Sea.”
"After that, a total of four aircraft, two presumed (new) Chinese bombers – which replaced the two Chinese bombers – and two Russian bombers, conducted a joint flight from the East China Sea to the Pacific Ocean," the defence minister said.
Mr Kishi said the aircraft also hovered over northern Hokkaido to the Noto Peninsula in central Japan.
The military exercise was confirmed by Moscow later on Tuesday, which said that the Russian and Chinese military planes carried out joint exercises to patrol the Asia-Pacific region.
Officials said that the joint military drill, involving Russia’s Tu-95 strategic bombers and Chinese Xian H-6 jets, lasted for 13 hours over the Japanese and East China seas.
Aircraft from Japan and South Korea’s air force shadowed the Russian and Chinese jets during the military drill, the Russian defence ministry said.
Mr Kishi said Japan has flagged its concerns to Russia and China via diplomatic channels.
"As the international community responds to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the fact that China took such action in collaboration with Russia, which is the aggressor, is cause for concern. It cannot be overlooked," he said.