Japan PM to discuss China air zone with Biden

AFP , Sunday 1 Dec 2013

A crew member of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy monitors on the deck of the China's aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailing on the East China Sea for sea trials, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 (Photo: AP)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday he would discuss China's expansion of its air defence zone with US Vice President Joe Biden in Tokyo to coordinate their stance after apparently contradictory responses.

China raised regional tensions with its declaration last weekend of the zone, which covers islands in the East China Sea at the centre of a dispute between Beijing and Tokyo, and demands that aircraft submit flight plans when traversing the area.

Tokyo has stopped Japanese airlines from submitting flight plans to Beijing but Washington said Friday it generally expected US carriers to "operate consistent with" notification policies issued by foreign countries.

"We want to hold consultation with US Vice President Biden who will visit Japan this week and deal with the matter by coordinating closely between Japan and the United States," Abe said.

Biden is due to arrive in Tokyo late Monday for a 34-hour visit as part of his East Asian tour which will also take him to China and South Korea.

The US State Department statement was widely taken in Japan to mean Washington had effectively advised US airlines to comply with the Chinese demand.

But Abe and Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said Washington had not explicitly requested US carriers to submit flight plans to Beijing.

"We have confirmed it through diplomatic channels," Abe told reporters, according to Jiji Press news agency.

Onodera, speaking on public broadcaster NHK, said: "The US government is taking the same stance with Japan" over the air defence zone.

"The US side has rather been quicker than Japan in responding to this issue. It has issued a strong message," the defence chief said.

China's announcement last weekend that it was extending an air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands, claimed by Beijing as the Diaoyus, was disregarded by several nations, and US B-52 bombers entered the area.

The Pentagon has indicated that American military forces would continue normal operations, despite China scrambling fighter jets to monitor US and Japanese aircraft in the zone.

Jiji said Abe and Onodera were possibly trying to deny any damaging difference between the Pacific allies over the air zone issue.

Onodera also cited press reports that China might "make similar moves in the South China Sea", where Beijing is involved in territorial disputes with several neighbouring countries.

"I think a sense of tension will run through countries within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)," he said. "The international community as a whole should not condone such unilateral approach."

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