TOKYO, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Up to eight Chinese military planes repeatedly flew near the island of Okinawa, Japan, scrambling Japan's air force, officials said.
The aircraft flew between the main island of Okinawa and Miyako Island on Sunday, traveling back and forth between the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The planes did not violate Japanese airspace, said the Defense Ministry in Tokyo.
Analysts said the Chinese -- using fighter jets for the first time in this type of move -- were trying to push back against Japanese vows of defending its interests in the South China Sea.
The Chinese Defense Ministry said on its website the planes were part of a group of more than 40 aircraft to fly between Okinawa and Miyako for drills in the Western Pacific.
"The regular Western Pacific drills and [Air Defense Identification Zones] patrols are necessary to safeguard national sovereignty, the country's security and maintain peaceful development," Chinese air force spokesman Shen Jinke said.