Japanese military aircraft may be attempting to elicit the radar frequency of PLA jets by harassing the latter over the Miyako Strait in the western Pacific, military experts explained.
PLA Air Force jets encountered two F-15 jet fighters of Japan's Self-Defense Force (SDF) on the morning of Dec. 10 while heading towards remote waters in the western Pacific for routine training. The F-15s harassed Chinese aircraft and fired jamming shells, read the statement of the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, expressing its "serious concern" over the incident.
Chinese military experts believed that Japan's SDF jets were provoking PLA jets in a bid to extract the PLA's air combat capabilities. Media reports show that another eight SDF F-15s and two U.S. reconnaissance aircraft – an EP-3 and an RC-135 – were also flying nearby, provoking suggestion that it was a coordinated operation conducted by Japan and the United States.
Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo said that Japan's F-15s might have been intentionally provoking Chinese jets, in an attempt to entice the latter to turn on fire-control radars and lock the hostile targets with missiles. In doing so, said Rear Admiral Yin, the Japanese and U.S. aircraft maybe seeking to ascertain the PLA jets' radar frequencies and detect Chinese missile performance.
Teng Jianqun, also a military expert, said that it was a joint operation by Japan and the United States to probe into the PLA's air combat capabilities in order to facilitate their future responses to PLA flights. Teng added that such acts were "highly provocative" while also unprofessional and dangerous.
But the Japanese Ministry of Defense denied harassing the PLA aircraft. In its statement released on Dec. 11, the Japanese defense authority said it was "factually inaccurate that the SDF aircraft endangered the safety of the Chinese aircraft and crew by the close range interference and the launching of jamming shells."
One day later, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga repeated the Japanese MOD's stance, and added that "it was extremely regretful that China announced its single-side allegation of the incident which is inconsistent with the facts." He threatened that China's act was harmful to Japan-China relations.
On Japan's denial, Geng Shuang, spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Dec. 12 that China urged Japan to keep the bigger picture in mind in order to preserve regional stability and China-Japan relations and to take concrete and effective measures to avoid air and maritime security issues.
In fact it was not the first time that Japanese military aircraft have fired jamming shells at PLA aircraft. On June 17, two S-30 jet fighters of the PLA Air Force were on a routine patrol in China's East China Sea Air Defense Identification Area when two SDF's F-15s approached at high speed. The F-15s turned on their fire-control radar and shot the beams at Chinese jets, prompting the latter to undertake tactical maneuvers among other countermeasures. The SDF's jet fighters fled after firing jamming shells.