Japan's Defense Ministry says two Russian fighter jets briefly intruded into Japanese airspace today off the northern tip of the island of Hokkaido. Japanese jets scrambled after the intrusion by the two SU-27 jets off the coast of Rishiri island, which lasted just over a minute, according to ministry official Yoshihide Yoshida. Yoshida says it's unclear whether the airspace violation was intentional or accidental, but that it was "extremely problematic." The last intrusion by Russian jets in Japanese airspace was on Feb. 9, 2008, he says. Moscow has denied the claim, reports RT.
Another Japanese official says it's not immediately clear whether the intrusion was related to a government-sponsored rally held today demanding that Moscow return a group of disputed islands off Hokkaido's eastern coast captured by the Russians in 1945. Soviet troops captured the islands in the waning days of World War II, forcing about 17,000 Japanese residents to be deported over the next few years. The islands are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and are believed to have offshore oil and natural gas reserves, plus gold and silver deposits.