12/13/2012 02:21 EST | Updated 02/11/2013 05:12 EST

Japan says Chinese plane spotted over disputed islands, F-15 jets scrambled to area

TOKYO - A Japanese government spokesman says a Chinese airplane has been spotted in Japanese airspace above southwestern islands controlled by Tokyo but also claimed by Beijing.

The Defence Agency said four Japanese F-15 jets headed to the area Thursday morning, but no further action was taken.

The islands known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese have been at the centre of a territorial dispute. The purchase of the islands by the Japanese government earlier this year from private Japanese owners set off massive anti-Japanese rallies in China.

Japanese ships have been patrolling the area on the lookout for approaching Chinese ships.

Chinese ships have darted in and out the waters in that area in recent months. Violations by Chinese planes of air space are more unusual.