TOKYO  - Japan and the US have started talks on operational plans in the case of armed conflict over a group of East China Sea islets claimed by Tokyo and Beijing, Japanese media said on Thursday, prompting China to complain of “outside pressure”. The dispute in recent months had escalated to the point where both sides scrambled fighter jets while patrol ships shadow each other, raising fears that an unintended collision or other incident could lead to a broader clash. The United States, which has announced a security “pivot” towards Asia, has said repeatedly it takes no position on the sovereignty dispute, but believes it is important for China and Japan to work out their differences peacefully.