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China extends air defence zone over disputed islands

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-11-24

China expanded its air defence zone on Saturday over the East China Sea to include a chain of disputed, energy-rich islands also claimed by Japan in a move that Tokyo called "totally unacceptable".

China extended its coastline air defence zone on Saturday to include a chain of islands in the East China Sea that is also claimed by its neighbour Japan, a move that Tokyo called "totally unacceptable".

While an air defence zone does not necessarily overlap with airspace, international boundaries or territorial claim, China also announced that, starting Saturday, all aircraft entering the extended zone must notify the Chinese authorities. If they do not identify themselves or obey Chinese orders, they are subject to emergency military measures.

The extended zone overlaps with Japan’s air defence zone, which also covers the islands. The move provoked Japan to call the act an "escalation" of tensions.

This altercation represents the latest chapter in a decades-long dispute over the islands, called the Diaoyu by the Chinese and the Senkakus by the Japanese. While the islands may be barren and uninhabited, they are said to be located near rich energy resources on the sea bed, which may explain why China and Japan, as well as South Korea and Taiwan have all claimed them.

In the past, tensions over maritime law in the East China Sea have threatened real diplomatic problems between Japan and China.

Things have been heating up in the region since China’s President Xi Jinping took office a year ago. Since then, he has been much more militarily assertive in the region, increasing military spending and asserting claims on many of China’s disputed territories.

In a statement on the ministry’s website, China maintained that the act was “not directed against any specific country or target.” It also stated that its defence claim over the zone would not affect the freedom of over-flight in the related airspace.


(FRANCE 24 with AP)

Date created : 2013-11-23

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