Nightly News   |  November 29, 2013

China scrambles jets as tensions rise over airspace

Tensions continue to rise in the East China Sea over a group of disputed islands after China scrambled fighter jets to intercept Japanese warplanes which had flown into China's self-declared air defense zone. NBC News' Jim Miklaszewski reports.

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>>> another issue the u.s. is watching closely tonight is playing out half a world away and has echoes of another era, something closer to the cold war . it's a dispute between china and japan over ownership of a group of islands in the east china sea . china recently announced it would restrict the air space over them. since then tensions have been rising as the u.s. continues to fly military aircraft over the islands. our pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski watching from our bc bureau tonight. good evening.

>> reporter: good evening. for now both sides are drawing lines in the sky. tensions could spin out offal control. china scrambled fighter jets to intercept japanese war planes which had flown into china 's self-declared air defense zone. they set it up in international air space in a dispute with japan over ownership rights to a pair of contested islands. no american aircraft were involved today. this week the u.s. ignored china 's self-imposed defense zone and flew two b-52 bombers through it unchallenged without incident. the pentagon announced today the flights would continue. so far there's been no direct provocation or confrontation. the fear is that as tensions escalate, somebody will fly too close or pull the trigger and a plane goes down. all this could come to a head next week when vice president joe biden travels to china . he's expected to raise the issue with chinese leaders. the white house refuses to say if biden will demand that china take down the defense zone. if china outright refused that could only back the white house into a corner and raise the stakes even higher.

>> our pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski