Chinese air defence zone invalid, says Japan

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Photo / AP
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Photo / AP

China's new maritime air defence zone is unenforceable, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said yesterday, in a continuing war of words over air space that includes the area above islands claimed by both.

Abe told a parliamentary session that China's declaration of an air defence identification zone alters the state of affairs in the East China Sea and escalates a tense situation.

"The measures by the Chinese side have no validity whatsoever on Japan, and we demand China revoke any measures that could infringe upon the freedom of flight in international airspace," Abe said during an Upper House session.

"It can invite an unexpected occurrence and it is a very dangerous thing as well."

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 the international law.

Since taking office almost a year ago, 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.

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.

At the weekend, Beijing issued a map of the zone and a set of rules, which say all aircraft must notify Chinese authorities and are subject to emergency military measures if they do not identify themselves or obey Beijing's orders.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said on Sunday that the zone's aim is to defend China's sovereignty and the security of its airspace and land. He said it does not affect freedom of overflight.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel have both said the US is deeply concerned about China's action.

"This unilateral action constitutes an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea," Kerry said.

"Escalatory action will only increase tensions in the region and create risks of an incident."

Qin said China made representations to US Ambassador Gary Locke for the US "to correct its mistakes and stop making irresponsible remarks on China".

Chinese state-run media accused Japan of being hypocritical and impudent for complaining about the zone.

An editorial in the Global Times newspaper, which is close to China's ruling Communist Party, accused Japan of double standards as it had set up its own ADIZ as close as 50km to Russia and 130km from China.

"Tokyo is hypocritical and impudent in its complaint with Beijing," the editorial said. "China has every fair and legitimate reason to establish its own air defence zone."

The newspaper warned Japan against taking action in the zone. "If Japan sends warplanes to 'intercept' China's jet fighters, Beijing's armed forces will be bound to adopt defensive emergency measures," it said.

"China has not declared any target by setting up the air defence zone but will definitely respond to unscrupulous provocateurs to the zone."

- AP, AFP

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