China calls on Japan to end jet scrambles

BEIJING (Reuters) - China called on Japan on Thursday to stop scrambling its jets against Chinese aircraft following a rise in the number of such operations, saying it was source of flying safety concerns. Tension has been high between Asia's two largest economies in recent months, with each accusing the other of flying military aircraft too close to its own jets in a long-running territorial dispute. Both sides claim a string of Japanese-administered islets in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Beijing declared an air defense zone covering most of the East China Sea last year, sparking protests from Japan and the United States. Japan's fighter jet scrambles against Chinese planes rose 29 percent to 103 in July-September, accounting for more than half of Tokyo's total scrambles in the three-month period, data from the country's Defense Ministry shows. Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said Beijing had noticed these numbers. "These figures announced by Japan show exactly the increase in the frequency of Japan tailing, observing and interfering with Chinese military aircraft," Yang told a monthly news briefing. "These kinds of acts by Japan are the cause of the China-Japan aviation safety problem, and we urge Japan to stop their mistaken ways." In June, China summoned Japan's defense attache to lodge a protest after the two countries traded accusations over the conduct of military jets over the East China Sea. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka in TOKYO; Editing by Nick Macfie)