BEIJING, June 12 (Xinhua) -- China's Defense Ministry on Thursday criticized Japan's accusation that a Chinese military aircraft had "approached unusually close" to two Japanese warplanes, saying it's "a thief who cries thief."
Geng Yansheng, spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense, said that two F-15 aircraft of Japan tailed China's Tu-154 plane, coming as near as 30 meters from the Chinese plane as it was conducting a routine patrol over the East China Sea at around 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
The Japanese fighters' actions seriously threatened the safety of China's plane, Geng added.
He said in a statement that Japan's accusation "was aimed at further deceiving the international community, smearing the image of our military and generating tensions in the region.
"Japan's vile practice disregarded the facts and talked black into white."
According to the spokesman, the Chinese pilots' operations were professional, standard and restrained while those of the Japanese counterparts were dangerous and obviously provocative.
Japan has long conducted close tracking, surveillance and interference over Chinese warships and airplanes, which is the root of Sino-Japan security issues, Geng noted.
"Rather than deeply reflecting on its own faults, the Japanese side often makes irresponsible and deceitful expressions to slander China," he said. "Japan's action completely unmasked its hypocrisy and it should make clarification to China and the international community."
Shen Jinke, spokesman for the Chinese Air Force, said in another statement that Chinese aircraft tried to identify and warn the Japanese aircraft during a normal air patrol mission in its Air Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea on Wednesday.
"It was conduct in line with international practice," said Shen. "There was no such notion as an 'abnormally close' encounter."
It is Japanese aircraft that have repeatedly followed and harassed Chinese aircraft in China's own air defense zone, he added.
"In face of the dangerous moves of Japanese aircraft, Chinese pilots have always been restrained. All reactions they made were defensive and in line with international practice," according to Shen.
Since the air defense zone was established in November last year, China's Air Force has exercised regular and effective control over all objects flying over the zone.
"The Chinese Air Force will continue air patrols in its Air Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea and safeguard the country's legal rights," Shen vowed.