TOKYO: Chinese and Russian strategic bombers flew over the Sea of Japan as US President Joe Biden and PM Modi hobnobbed at a Quad summit in Tokyo.
The nuclear-capable bombers were conducting a joint military exercise. It was provocation enough for Japan to scramble its jets to register a protest; more so when Tokyo was hosting the leaders of the Quad grouping. Nobuo Kishi, Japan’s Defence Minister, condemned the exercise as “provocative” and “unacceptable”.
According to the defence ministry, there was no incursion into Japanese airspace by the four bombers.
Russia and China conducted joint nuclear bomber exercises over the Sea of Japan in 2019, 2020 and 2021, but Tuesday’s flight was the first time such a manoeuvre occurred with a US president in the region.
China is rattled as it sees the Quad as not just an eco grouping but an Asian NATO.
The Quad leaders on Tuesday warned against attempts to "change the status quo by force", although they avoided direct references to Russia or China in a joint statement. Their statement referred to the war in Ukraine, however, and listed a range of activities that Beijing has regularly been accused of in the region.
The Defence Minister said Japan had "communicated through diplomatic channels our grave concerns from the perspective of our country's and the region's security".
"As the international community responds to Russia's aggression against Ukraine, the fact that China took such action in collaboration with Russia, which is the aggressor, is cause for concern. It cannot be overlooked," he pointed out.
Meanwhile, the four leaders of the Quad - an informal grouping led by Washington - on Tuesday stressed their determination to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific region in the face of an increasingly assertive China.