Russia has dramatically upped its number of incursions into Japanese airspace over the last six month, increasing the tally from last year’s by a sizable margin. Reuters has the numbers:
According to government figures released this week, instances of fighter jets scrambling into the skies above Japan jumped by 73 percent in the six months through September, led by sorties confronting Russian bombers and spy planes.Scrambles jumped to 533 from 308 a year earlier, the Defense Ministry said, and the total is on course to surpass figures seen during the last fiscal year, themselves the highest in nearly a quarter of a century.Flights dispatched specifically to meet Russian aircraft in the latest six months soared to 324 from 136, although they eased during the second half of the period under review.“We don’t know the reason for the increased air activity. That’s something for the Russians to answer,” said a Self-Defense Forces official, who declined to be identified under ground rules for a recent press tour of facilities in Hokkaido.
This is going on in the background despite signs we noted earlier this week that Russia was gearing up to export more gas to Japan. Of course, this kind of behavior shouldn’t be entirely unexpected either, as Japan has been party to sanctions in force over Russian annexation of Crimea. Russian aircraft have been extra active in and around foreign airspaces of late, as if to give physical shape to Moscow’s displeasure. In September, American and Canadian fighter jets intercepted Russian bombers and fighter jets off the coast of Alaska, in the U.S. ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone). And Moscow’s aircraft have for months been dipping into the airspace of Poland and its fellow NATO allies in the Baltic States with some regularity.Whatever Moscow thinks it is telegraphing with these sorties, it is playing a dangerous game. The world finds itself in a particularly volatile state right now, and the potential for miscalculation leading to further escalation is high.