[QODLink]
Asia-Pacific

China fighter jets fly through disputed zone

Beijing's "defensive measure" raises stakes in standoff with US, South Korea and Japan over the disputed airspace.

Last updated: 29 Nov 2013 19:06
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Ties between China and Japan have been strained for months by the dispute over the islands [AP]

China's military sent several fighter jets and an early warning aircraft on patrol into disputed airspace over the East China Sea, the state news agency Xinhua reported, quoting a spokesman for the People's Liberation Army Air Force.

The move raises the stakes in a standoff with the United States, Japan and South Korea over the zone.

Japan and South Korea sent their own military aircraft through the airspace on Thursday.

The Chinese patrol mission was "a defensive measure and in line with international common practices," said Shen Jinke, a spokesman for China's air force.

Ties between China and Japan have been strained for months by the dispute over the islands in the East China Sea, called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan. The islands are currently under Japanese administrative control.

China last week unilaterally announced that foreign aircraft - including passenger aircraft - passing over the islands would have to identify themselves to China.

Sign of support

Earlier this week, Washington sent two unarmed B-52 bombers through the airspace without first informing Beijing, a sign of support for its ally Japan.

Although there are risks of a confrontation in the defence zone, US and Chinese military officials have stepped up communication with each other in recent years and are in regular contact to avoid accidental clashes breaking out.

US Vice President Joe Biden is visiting China, Japan and South Korea next week, and will try to diffuse tensions over the issue, senior US administration officials said.

The Pentagon said on Friday that American forces would continue normal operations despite China scrambling fighter jets to monitor US and Japanese aircraft in Beijing's newly declared air defense zone.

"We'll continue to partner with our allies in the region and operate as normal," Lieutenant-Colonel Erik Brine, a Pentagon spokesman, told the AFP news agency on Friday, without elaborating. 

Xinhua reported that China's air force is "on high alert and will take measures to deal with diverse air threats to firmly protect the security of the country's airspace."

Analysts question China's technical ability to enforce the zone due to a shortage of early warning radar aircraft and in-flight refueling capability.

However, many believe that China has a long-term plan to win recognition for the zone with a gradual ratcheting-up of warnings and possibly also eventual enforcement action.

 

384

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.