Japan scrambles jets to monitor Chinese bombers near Okinawa, drone near Taiwan
PHOTO CAPTION: Japanese pilots race to two Mitsubishi F-15J Eagles during a scramble demonstration during a joint exercise with U.S. forces at Chitose Air Base, Japan, April 14, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton via U.S. Defense Visual Information Distribution Service)
TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan's defence ministry on Friday said it scrambled jet fighters to monitor Chinese air force bombers and drones flying near the country's southwestern Okinawa island and Taiwan.
Two Chinese H-6 bombers were spotted flying through the strait between southwest Japan's Okinawa and Miyako islands connecting the East China Sea and the Pacific on Friday morning, the ministry said.
Okinawa is home to one of the major American military bases in Asia-Pacific and the centre of Japan and the United States' defence buildup to deter China from attacking Taiwan or nearby Japanese islands.
In a separate statement, the ministry said it also spotted a Chinese military drone and another "likely Chinese" drone flying between Japan's westernmost Yonaguni island and Taiwan during the day.
Japan dispatched its Air Self-Defense Force jet fighter to follow the drones, which eventually turned toward mainland China, it said.
Taiwan's defence ministry had reported renewed Chinese military activity around the island earlier on Friday, including 13 aircraft entering Taiwan's "response" zone and five ships carrying out combat readiness patrols.
(Reporting by Kantaro Komiya; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)