Japan says it is scrambling its fighter jets at a record pace to confront Chinese and Russian warplanes in or near its airspace.
The Defense Ministry said on January 20 that Japanese fighters scrambled 44 times in the nine months ending December 31, which is 32 percent more than in same period the previous year.
It said that at the current pace, scrambles for the year to March 31 would exceed the 944 encounters logged at the height of the Cold War 30 years ago.
China has taunted Tokyo by increasing flights in and around the East China Sea, where both countries claim a group of islets.
But many of the Japanese jets have been sent up to counter Russian bombers and spy planes.
Japanese jets scrambled 369 times in the last three months to confront Russian planes, four times the pace of a decade ago.
Russia and Japan remain locked in a dispute over a Russian-held archipelago that has prevented them from formally ending World War II hostlities.
West of Russia, encounters between Russian warplanes and NATO jets have increased sharply amid tension over the conflict in Ukraine.