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Tokyo scrambles fighter jets against China military planes

TOKYO: Japan scrambled fighter jets yesterday to head off a number of Chinese military planes near islands at the center of a territorial dispute, Japanese media said.
The Chinese planes were spotted on Japanese military radar north of the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, known as the Diaoyus in China, a television network reported, quoting Japanese government officials.
They did not violate territorial airspace over the islands but flew inside Japan's so-called air defense identification zone, the report said.
The Japanese Defense Ministry press office did not confirm the report. The Chinese planes were gone when F-15 jet fighters from an airbase on Japan's main Okinawan island reached the area, the report said, adding the Chinese flights continued until about 5 p.m.
Chinese government ships and planes have been seen off the disputed islands numerous times since Japan nationalized them in September, sometimes within the 12 nautical-mile territorial zone.
The coastguard said yesterday they were not aware of any Chinese military aircraft in the area.
Japan is expected today to approve a huge stimulus package aimed at breathing life into its flagging economy.
Around 180 billion yen ($ 2.1 billion) of the total 20 trillion yen is expected to be allocated to military spending.
A Defence Ministry spokesman told AFP the cash would be used to buy missiles, helicopters and to refurbish fighter jets to cope with the changing security environment in the region.