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Asia-pacific

US defies China to fly over disputed Senkaku islands

© Photo: AFP

Video by Philip CROWTHER

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-11-27

The United States sent two military planes over the disputed Senkaku islands in the East China Sea without informing China which has asserted its control over the airspace, a Pentagon spokesman said on Tuesday.

Two unarmed US military aircraft have flown over disputed islands in the East China Sea without informing China which has asserted its control over the airspace, a Pentagon spokesman said on Tuesday.

"We have conducted operations in the area of the Senkakus”, Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said. “We have continued to follow our normal procedures, which include not filing flight plans, not radioing ahead and not registering our frequencies".

“It involved two aircraft flying from Guam and returning to Guam," Warren told reporters. The mission went ahead "without incident," with the two aircraft spending "less than an hour" China’s “Air Defence Identification Zone”, Warren said.

Beijing announced rules at the weekend that effectively demanded Chinese control over the airspace above a swathe of the East China Sea criss-crossed by vital transport lanes. The zone covers the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands, which Beijing claims as the Diaoyus, where ships and aircraft from the two countries already shadow each other in a dangerous game of cat and mouse.

The area also includes waters claimed by Taiwan and South Korea, which have also both registered their displeasure at China’s move.

On Tuesday, the United States came out forcefully in Tokyo's favour by affirming that the Senkakus fall under the US-Japan security treaty.

"This announcement from the Chinese government was unnecessarily inflammatory," White House deputy spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Governments around the world lined up to dismiss the zone as invalid, The Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, summoned Beijing's ambassador to voice opposition. Bishop said: "Australia has made clear its opposition to any coercive or unilateral actions to change the status quo in the East China Sea,"

China's foreign ministry said that "we hope Australia can understand correctly, and make joint efforts to maintain the security of flight in the relevant airspace".

Germany's government said the move "raised the risk of an armed incident between China and Japan".

Chinese demand

On Tuesday, the Japanese government persuaded its leading airlines to stop acceding to Chinese demands. All Nippon Airways had said that since Sunday it has been submitting flight plans to Chinese authorities for planes due to pass through the area.

"Safety is our top priority,” an ANA spokesman said. “We have to avoid any possibility of the worst-case scenario."

Japan Airlines said it was also complying with the rules.

Late on Tuesday, Japanese news agencies reported that both All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines had reversed their decisions.

China said aircraft must provide their flight plan, clearly mark their nationality, and maintain two-way radio communication allowing them to "respond in a timely and accurate manner" to identification inquiries from Chinese authorities.

In Taipei an official of Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration said Taiwan's airlines will abide by the rules set out by China, with the CAA forwarding flight plans to Chinese aviation authorities.

But Korean Air and its South Korean rival Asiana Airlines said none of their planes flying through the zone were reporting in advance to China.

"There will be no changes in our operations until there is a new policy guideline from the transportation ministry," a Korean Air statement said, in comments echoed by Asiana.

The announcement of the zone seemed popular in China, where a poll by the state-run Global Times newspaper showed nearly 85 percent of respondents believe the zone would "safeguard airspace security".

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2013-11-26

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