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Japanese and South Korean planes fly through disputed Chinese air defence zone

It brings to three the number of nations who have entered the airspace since Tuesday.

A replica of a Chinese made fighter jet in Beijing, China.
A replica of a Chinese made fighter jet in Beijing, China.
Image: Ng Han Guan/AP/Press Association Images

TWO MORE NATIONS, Japan and South Korea, say they have defied China’s newly declared air defence zone yesterday, showing a united front to Beijing after US B-52 bombers did the same.

Meanwhile. Chinese authorities are coming under internal pressure to toughen their response to incursions into the air defence identification zone (ADIZ) they declared last weekend.

The zone includes disputed islands claimed by China, which knows them as the Diaoyus, but controlled by Japan, which calls them the Senkakus, a dispute which lay dormant for decades but flared in September 2012 when Tokyo purchased three of the uninhabited outcrops from private owners.

The move triggered US and Japanese accusations of provocation as global concerns grew.

China’s ADIZ requires aircraft to provide their flight plan, declare their nationality and maintain two-way radio communication, or face “defensive emergency measures”.

But Tokyo said its coastguard and air force had flown unopposed in the zone without complying with Beijing’s rules.

“We have been operating normal warning and patrol activities in the East China Sea including that area,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. “We have no intention of changing this”.

South Korea’s military said it encountered no resistance when one of its planes entered the area, which also overlaps Seoul’s ADIZ, unannounced on Tuesday.`

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File photo of a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s P-3C Orion surveillance plane flying over the disputed islands in the East China Sea (Image Credit: AP Photo/Kyodo News)

Two giant US Stratofortress bombers flew into the zone on Tuesday, an unmistakable message from Washington before a pre-planned visit to the region by Vice President Joe Biden.

Senior administration officials in Washington said Wednesday that Biden will raise Washington’s concerns about the zone while in Beijing.

The trip will allow him to “make the broader point that there’s an emerging pattern of behaviour by China that is unsettling to China’s own neighbours and raising questions about how China operates in international space”, an official said.

China’s defence ministry issued a statement 11 hours after the US announcement saying its military “monitored the entire process” of the B-52 flights, without expressing regret or anger or threatening direct action.

The Global Times, which is close to China’s ruling Communist Party and often takes a nationalist tone, criticised the reaction as “too slow” in an editorial Thursday.

“We failed in offering a timely and ideal response,” it said, adding that Chinese officials needed to react to “psychological battles” by the US.

The government-run China Daily added that Washington’s move risked increasing Tokyo’s “dangerous belligerence” and putting China and the US on a collision course “which will prove much more hazardous than sending military aircraft to play chicken in the air”.

Asked about the South Korean flight, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said: “China identifies any aircraft within the ADIZ and must have noted the relevant situation you have mentioned”.

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He reiterated criticism of US and Japanese responses to the zone, urging both countries to “immediately correct their mistakes and stop their irresponsible accusations against China”.

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Computer screens display a map showing the outline of China’s new air defense zone. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

China’s relations with South Korea have recently improved but the zone covers a disputed South Korean-controlled rock, known as Ieodo in Seoul and Suyan in Beijing, that has long been a source of tensions between them.

South Korea’s Vice Defence Minister Baek Seung-Joo expressed “strong regret” at China’s ADIZ announcement, which he said was “heightening military tension in the region”.

Australia on Thursday refused to back down from criticism of the air zone after summoning China’s ambassador earlier this week and prompting an angry response from Beijing.

The Philippines voiced concern that China may extend control of air space over disputed areas of the South China Sea, where the two nations have a separate territorial dispute.

China for its part has accused the US and Japan, which both have ADIZs, of double standards, saying the real provocateur is Tokyo.

© AFP 2013

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