JAPAN scrambled a record number of fighter jets in the past 12 months amid sharply escalating tensions with China, official figures have revealed.

The Japanese Air Self Defence Force said fighter jets had been scrambled 1,168 times in the 12 months up to the end of March this year.

The overall figure is a sharp rise compared to the preceding 12 months when jets were deployed 873 times.

The previous high was 944 times back in 1984.

Of the total, a record 851 jets were used to ward off Chinese planes that were close to Japanese air space, a rise of 280 compared to the previous 12 months.

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