China’s new maritime air defence zone ‘unenforceable and dangerous’, Japan says

Japanese prime minister says China's declaration of an air defence identification zone alters affairs in the East China Sea and heightens a tense situation.

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TOKYO // China’s new maritime air defence zone is unenforceable and dangerous, the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said yesterday.

In an escalating war of words over air space, which includes the area above islands claimed by both, Mr Abe said China’s declaration of an air defence identification zone alters the state of affairs in the East China Sea and heightens a tense situation.

“The measures by the Chinese side have no validity whatsoever for Japan and we demand China revoke any measures that could infringe upon the freedom of flight in international airspace,” Mr Abe said. “It can invite an unexpected occurrence and it is a very dangerous thing as well.”

On Saturday, Beijing issued a map of the zone and a set of rules, which said all aircraft must notify Chinese authorities as they enter the area and are subject to emergency military measures if they do not identify themselves or obey Beijing’s orders.

Mr Abe said the measures one-sidedly impose rules set by the Chinese military on all flights in the zone and violate the freedom to fly above open sea, a general principle under international law.

Mr Abe also slammed China for showing the disputed islands, called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, as Chinese territory in the zone.

Since taking office almost a year ago, Mr Abe has been spearheading a move to step up Japan’s defence capability, citing threats from China’s growing maritime and military presence in the region. Japan has had a similar zone since the 1960s.

South Korea also complained yesterday about the Chinese zone, which includes the air space above a set of submerged rocks that are controlled by Seoul but also claimed by Beijing.

South Korea’s defence ministry summoned China’s military attache in Seoul and told him that the zone is unacceptable because it was drawn unilaterally, according to ministry officials.

A defence ministry spokesman, Kim Min-seek, said South Korea’s control over the area remained unchanged and Seoul would not notify China when its planes pass through the region.

Earlier yesterday, China’s foreign ministry said it had complained to the United States over its “irresponsible remarks” about China’s drawing up of the zone for the disputed islands, which are administered by Japan.

China’s defence ministry also called Japan’s objections to its East China Sea air defence identification zone “absolutely groundless and unacceptable” and said it had made solemn representations to the Japanese embassy in Beijing.

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, and the US secretary of defence, Chuck Hagel, have both said the US is “deeply concerned” about China’s action.

The US doesn’t take a position on who has sovereignty over the islands but recognises they are under Japanese administration.

* Associated Press