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Aircraft encounters raise fear of conflict

Jan. 12, 2013 at 1:31 PM

BEIJING, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Fears of armed conflict have been raised after Japanese and Chinese warplanes tailed each other above a disputed group of uninhabited islands, officials say.

Two Chinese J-10 fighter planes were ordered by Chinese military authorities to perform "verification and monitoring" Friday after Japanese F-15 fighter jets tailed a Chinese transport plane, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

The incident occurred in airspace over a group of islands in the East China Sea claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan. The Chinese call the island Diaoyu while the Japanese have named them Senkaku.

A Chinese military official told the official Xinhua news agency the cause of the dispute was the recent expansion by Japan of the activity zone of its military aircraft.

The dispute over the islands flared in September 2012 when Japan purchased some of the islands from a private owner. China has sent ships and planes into the region to assert its claim to the islands.

The waters surrounding the islands are thought to have large reserves of oil and gas.

The director of China's State Oceanic Administration said Thursday China will continue to patrol the island's territorial waters, China.org.cn reported.

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