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Japan and US in joint jet flight after China drill and North Korean missiles

Three F-15 warplanes of the Japanese self-defence force, front, and four F-16 fighters of the US armed forces fly over the Sea of Japan (Joint staff of the Japanese Self-Defence Force/AP)
Three F-15 warplanes of the Japanese self-defence force, front, and four F-16 fighters of the US armed forces fly over the Sea of Japan (Joint staff of the Japanese Self-Defence Force/AP)

Japanese and US forces have conducted a joint fighter jet flight over the Sea of Japan, Japan’s defence ministry said.

It is an apparent response to a Russia-China joint bomber flight while US President Joe Biden was in Tokyo.

Wednesday’s Japan-US flight was meant to “confirm combined capabilities of the Japanese SDF and the US forces and to further strengthen the Japan-US alliance”, the Japanese Self-Defence Force (SDF) said in a statement.

“In order to respond to any emergency, we are taking utmost readiness.”

The flight was held hours after North Korea fired three missiles, including an intercontinental ballistic missile, toward the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, amid concerns about another nuclear test by Pyongyang.

The missiles fell into the waters outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

Chinese and Russian strategic bombers conducted joint flights near Japan on Tuesday, Japan’s defence ministry said, while Mr Biden was meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and their counterparts from India and Australia for the Quad, an Indo-Pacific security and economic coalition meant as a counterweight to China’s growing influence in the region.

Chinese H-6 bombers joined Russian TU-95s over the Sea of Japan and flew to areas over the East China Sea but did not violate Japanese airspace, said Japanese defence minister Nobuo Kishi.

Separately, a Russian IL-20 reconnaissance plane was spotted flying off the northern Japanese coast.

The Chinese-Russian flight represented an “increased level of provocation” and a threat to the Quad, Mr Kishi said later on Tuesday.

China’s ministry of defence said the Chinese and Russian militaries carried out joint strategic air patrols above the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea and the western Pacific.

Wednesday’s Japan-US flight involved eight warplanes based in Japan, including four US F-16 fighters and four Japanese F-15s, the Japanese joint staff said.

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