Japan scrambled jets after 11 Chinese military planes flew near southern Japanese islands during what Beijing said was a drill to improve its long-range combat abilities, reports said Saturday.
The planes -- eight bombers, two intelligence gathering planes and one early-warning aircraft -- flew near Miyako and Okinawa on Friday without violating Japan's airspace, the Japanese defence ministry said in a statement released on Friday.
Some of them flew between the two islands while others made flights close to neighbouring islands, the ministry said.
A Chinese air force spokesman said several types of planes, including H-6K bombers, were involved in Friday's drill over the western Pacific, China's Xinhua news agency reported.
Shen Jinke said such open sea exercises had improved the force's long-distance combat abilities, according to Xinhua.
While there were no further comments from the Japanese ministry, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that it was "unusual" for China to dispatch such a large fleet close to Japan's airspace and the ministry was analysing the purpose of the mission.
Japan scrambles jets hundreds of times a year to defend its airspace, both against Russia and these days also against Chinese aircraft.