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Biden Rejects China's Air Defense Zone, Reaffirms Asia Pivot

  • Daniel Schearf

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden delivers a speech at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 6, 2013

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden delivers a speech at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 6, 2013

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has rejected China's self-declared Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea, saying it raises tensions in the region and the possibility of miscalculation. Biden made the comments while in South Korea where he reaffirmed a U.S. plan to re-focus on the Asia Pacific and urged North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden Friday made his strongest comments yet on China's sudden expansion of its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).

Beijing in November declared its aviation security area in the East China Sea extended over islands disputed with Japan and a reef disputed with South Korea. China demanded that all aircraft intending to enter the zone first submit a flight plan and Chinese officials reserved the right to deny access.

China has dismissed calls by officials in Washington, Tokyo and Seoul to roll back the defense zone, which it calls legal and within its rights.

In a speech at South Korea's Yonsei University, Biden said China's actions risk the possibility of mistakes with profound consequences. “I was absolutely clear on behalf of my president: We do not recognize the zone. It will have no effect on American operations. None. Zero,” he stated.

The vice president's firm stance came a day after he expressed deep concerns on the zone to China's President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

Biden, on a week-long trip in Asia, met in Japan earlier in the week with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who said the new security area would not be tolerated.

Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. defied Beijing's demands and flew military planes through the zone.

But while Washington suggested U.S. commercial airliners abide by Beijing's demand Seoul and Tokyo have completely refused.

South Korea went further by threatening to increase its own air defense ID zone, potentially escalating the tension.

South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Wi Yong-seob said the new zone would cover some neglected islands and an ocean research station on a reef it disputes with China.

He said as the defense minister said Thursday, they view it only appropriate to include the air zones of Hongdo, Marado and Ieodo for the purpose of operating the Air Defense Identification Zone.

It was not clear if Biden expressed any reservations about Seoul's plan. The vice president met Friday with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and the two agreed to cooperate on the dispute with China.

Biden repeated a commitment to increase the U.S. presence in the Asia Pacific and called for international pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. "The simple fact is this - North Korea can never achieve security and prosperity so long as it pursues nuclear weapons," said Biden. "Period."

President Park called South Korea's relationship with the United States a linchpin of stability in Northeast Asia.

While in South Korea Biden will visit the Korean War memorial and the heavily-armed border with North Korea.

VOA Seoul Bureau producer Youmi Kim contributed to this report.