US and Japanese fighter jets have carried out joint air exercises days after Chinese and Japanese military planes shadowed each other near disputed islands in the East China Sea. The five-day exercise, off the southwest of the archipelago, involves six US FA-18 fighters and around 90 American personnel, along with four Japanese F-4 jets and an unspecified number of people, an official familiar with the matter said.|
The drill is being carried out over Pacific waters off the coast of Shikoku, the fourth largest of Japan's islands.
It comes weeks after hawkish new Japanese premier Shinzo Abe won an election landslide following campaign promises to re-invigorate Tokyo's security alliance with Washington and take a more robust line against Beijing.
It also comes as a stand-off between China and Japan over the sovereignty of the disputed East China Sea islands shows no signs of letting up.
Tokyo reportedly scrambled fighter jets on Thursday to head off Chinese military planes in an area adjoining the airspace of the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, which Beijing claims as the Diaoyus.
A Chinese defence ministry official later said two J-10 fighters flew to the area to monitor two Japanese F-15 fighters that had trailed a Chinese Y-8 aircraft, according to China's official Xinhua news agency.
The row between Asia's two largest economies over the uninhabited, but potentially resource-rich islands blistered in September when Tokyo nationalised three of them.
Chinese government ships have repeatedly gone to the archipelago's territorial waters since then.
Beijing insists it is simply patrolling islands it has owned since ancient times.
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