Japan Intercepting Record Numbers of Chinese Planes

Here's some interesting information about how China is becoming increasingly assertive in the Western Pacific.  Japanese fighters scrambled to intercept Chinese intelligence planes near or in Japanese airspace a record-setting 83 times between April and September of this year.

This is three times the number of interceptions made by the Japanse Air Self Defense Force against Chinese planes during the same six-month period in fiscal year 2010, according to the Japanese paper Asahi Shimbun.

The 83 scrambles against Chinese aircraft greatly exceeds the 24 in the first half of last year. It is even greater than the 72 times ASDF aircraft were scrambled in the second half of fiscal 2010, when relations with Beijing deteriorated after a Chinese trawler rammed two Japan Coast Guard ships in waters near the disputed Senkaku Islands.

The figure for the six-month period is the highest since such half-year statistics have been compiled from fiscal 2003 and exceeds the full fiscal year figures of 43 for 2007, 31 for 2008 and 38 for 2009.

Defense Ministry officials said they could not confirm if any Chinese aircraft violated Japanese airspace.

Ministry officials said China was strengthening its intelligence-gathering and electronic warfare capabilities.

This comes as China is fielding its first aircraft carrier,  anti-ship ballistic missiles, a ton of spy satellites and even MRAPs. Oh yeah, it's also developing a stealth fighter and a host of new UAVs.

All this is to 'protect that which is ours,' say Chinese leaders. The problem is, no one outside of China is certain just what Beijing's power elite considers to be theirs.

"I’d be a lot happier if knew exactly what their intent was," said Bruce Carlson, National Reconnaissance Office director while discussing the Pentagon's space warfare preparations last month. "They’re an incredibly modern society but their military philosophy goes all the way back to probably, 4,000 years ago. They believe in deception, that’s just one of their mantras so I remain concerned about their intent and exactly what it is, I do not know — but I’m concerned about it."

Now, the Pentagon isn't just turning a blind eye to this.  Just this week, 3,000 U.S. and Filipino marines are conducting amphibious landing exercises near the Spratly Islands -- a South China Sea island chain that China is very keen to claim  due to its proximity to potential oil reserves.

While the exceersies aren't officially aimed at China, there's no doubt it sends a message to everyone in the region that the U.S. is paying attention.

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