A Russian military reconnaissance plane was detected flying back and forth between the Sea of Japan north of the Japanese archipelago and the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday.
Japan’s Defense Ministry is stepping up its alert after eight more planes believed to be Russian military aircraft were spotted flying near Japanese airspace the same day.
Ministry officials say the reconnaissance plane made a round trip over the Sea of Japan north of the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido and the Pacific off the coast of Tohoku through the Sea of Okhotsk.
Eight more apparent Russian military aircraft flew near Japanese waters in the Sea of Japan, the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific.
The reconnaissance plane and three other aircraft flew near Japan’s Northern Territories.
Russia controls the islands. Japan claims them. The Japanese government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan’s territory. It says the islands were illegally occupied after World War Two.
Ministry officials say the Air Self-Defense Force scrambled fighter jets in response to each aircraft.
Ministry sources say it is unusual for so many Russian military planes or apparent military planes to fly near Japanese airspace on the same day.
Officials are analyzing the purpose of the flights as the same reconnaissance plane was observed taking a similar route on Tuesday.