A Chinese early warning aircraft overflew waters between the main Okinawa island and Miyako Island Wednesday, the first ever Chinese military plane to do so, the defense minister said.
Itsunori Onodera, now on an inspection visit to Kanoya, Kagoshima Prefecture, southern Japan, told reporters, "Although Japan has seen Chinese military vessels sailing through the waters, the incident marks the first time that a Chinese military aircraft passed through the area."
"This may indicate China's growing willingness to expand its influence over seas," Onodera said.
Japan will enhance its surveillance on relevant Chinese moves, he said.
Japan's Air Self-Defense Force scrambled against the Chinese aircraft, although its path did not include Japan's territorial airspace.