China on Thursday warned Japan against “playing with fire” in the contested waters of the South China Sea, after Tokyo announced it may patrol alongside the US in the region. China also sent fighter planes for the first time over a strait near Japan on Monday as part of a group of more than 40 jets headed to train in the West Pacific.

The move followed remarks by Japanese Defence Minister Tomomi Inada this month that Tokyo would increase its engagement in the South China Sea through joint training with the US Navy, exercises with regional navies and capacity-building assistance to coastal nations. The Chinese defence ministry said the aim of the announcement was “to mess up the South China Sea situation and try to gain interests from the troubled waters.” READ MORE