TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Defense Ministry says it scrambled a fighter jet as two Chinese spy planes approached Japanese airspace near disputed East China Sea islands.

A ministry spokesman says the Chinese navy surveillance jets flew near Japanese airspace Wednesday over the islands both Tokyo and Beijing claim but did not enter it. The Chinese planes flew away, and the Japanese jet returned to its base.

He declined to be named, citing department policy.

Public broadcaster NHK said the Chinese spy planes flew as close as 37 miles (60 kilometers) north of the islands, called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.

Tension between Japan and China soared after a Chinese fishing trawler and Japanese patrol boats crashed off the disputed islands last year.