Are the Japanese going to give O-BOMB-YA his war?

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The skies over Okinawa are often perilous, with sudden squalls complicating air traffic over this subtropical Japanese outpost.

In recent months, the treacherous airspace has gotten even busier, with Japanese fighter jets based in Naha, the capital of Okinawa prefecture, scrambling in record numbers as tensions between China and Japan spiral over a scattering of disputed islands.

The uninhabited outcroppings in the East China Sea, called the Senkaku in Japanese and the Diaoyu in Chinese, are currently administered by Japan but China maintains historic claims to them.

The situation is particularly tense at the moment because of a collision of sensitive anniversaries. Sept. 18 is the 82nd anniversary of Japan’s brutal invasion of northern China. And a year ago on Sept. 11, the Japanese government nationalized some of the disputed islands, provoking protests in Chinese cities where anti-Japanese sentiment simmers.

From April 1, 2012 through June 30, 2012, 15 Japanese jets were scrambled 15 times as a result of perceived threats from China, whether by sea or air. During the same period this year, the number jumped to 69.

“It’s not as if there’s no connection between the Senkaku nationalization and the increase in scramblings,” says Naha air-base commander Major General Yasuhiko Suzuki, with typical Japanese understatement, as F-15s from his base roared overhead.