US, Japan slam China’s new air defence zone

Reuters and AFP

TOKYO/WASHINGTON — Japan and ally the United States 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 Identification 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 on Sunday. 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 Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku 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 — or face unknown, potentially dangerous consequences. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged China to exercise caution and restraint, saying freedom of overflight was essential to stability and security in the Pacific. “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.