US, Japan slam China
air zone claim
RISKING STABILITY: The US called Beijing¡¦s move
to impose new rules on airspace over the East China Sea a ¡¥destabilizing attempt
to alter the status quo in the region¡¦
Reuters, TOKYO and WASHINGTON
Japan and ally the US sharply criticized China¡¦s move to impose new rules on
airspace over islands at the heart of a territorial dispute with Tokyo, warning
of an escalation into the ¡§unexpected¡¨ if Beijing enforces the rules.
China¡¦s government-run Xinhua news agency published coordinates for a newly
established ¡§East China Sea air defense iIdentification zone,¡¨ which covers most
of that sea and includes the skies over the disputed islands.
Beijing warned that it would take ¡§defensive emergency measures¡¨ against
aircraft that failed to identify themselves properly in the airspace.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said the move was unacceptable. ¡§It
could well lead to an unforeseen situation,¡¨ he told reporters yesterday.
Ties between the Asian powers, the world¡¦s second and third-biggest economies,
have been strained for months by the dispute over the islands in the East China
Sea, called the Diaoyutai Islands (³¨³½¥x) by Taiwan and the Senkakus by Japan.
The islands are currently under Japanese administrative control.
Saturday¡¦s announcement suggests that foreign aircraft merely passing through
that zone would have to follow China¡¦s procedures ¡X or face unknown, potentially
US Secretary of State John Kerry urged China to exercise caution and restraint,
saying freedom of overflight was essential to stability and security in the
¡§We urge China not to implement its threat to take action against aircraft that
do not identify themselves or obey orders from Beijing,¡¨ he said in a statement.
A US-Japan security treaty commits Washington to intervene in defense of Japan
if there is an attack on Japanese-administered territory.
The US has a hefty military presence in Japan, including on the southern island
of Okinawa, which is close to the disputed isles.
Xinhua said in a commentary the ¡§air zone could contribute to regional peace and
security by curbing the increasing rampancy of Japan¡¦s right-wing forces, as
well as the continuous and dangerous provocations of Japanese politicians, which
even Washington should be vigilant against.¡¨
Tokyo lodged a strong protest through the Chinese embassy, calling the action
¡§totally unacceptable¡¨ and warning that the overlap of the air defense
identification zone could lead to an ¡§unexpected occurrence of accidents in the
A senior diplomat in China¡¦s Tokyo embassy, Han Zhiqiang (Áú§Ó±j), dismissed
Tokyo¡¦s protests, saying in a statement that ¡§Japan has no right to make
Han said the Chinese government¡¦s aim was to defend its national sovereignty and
territorial airspace and was not aimed at a specific country or target. He added
it did not affect the freedom to pass through the airspace.
Xinhua said the latest rules came into force on Saturday and China¡¦s air force
conducted its first patrol over the zone. The patrol included early warning
aircraft and fighters, it said.
Japan scrambled fighter jets on Saturday afternoon against two Chinese
reconnaissance planes over the East China Sea, the Japanese defense ministry
In a strongly worded statement, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel called
Beijing¡¦s move a ¡§destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo in the region.¡¨
Security experts echoed the concerns about an escalation, saying that if China
were to enforce the air defense identification zone, a non-Chinese military
aircraft¡¦s flying into it could lead to a military face-off between the two
Tensions in the region are expected to be a topic of discussion when US Vice
President Joe Biden travels to China, Japan and South Korea next month.
The US has not taken a position on sovereignty issues in the regional maritime
disputes, but has stressed the need for the free flow of commerce, a reduction
in tensions and peace and stability in the region.
China¡¦s move comes on the heels of a visit there last week by a delegation of
Japanese business leaders in the hopes of improving economic ties. Trade between
the two countries amounts to US$250 billion annually, but Japanese Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping (²ßªñ¥) have yet to hold an