News / Asia

Biden: US 'Deeply Concerned' About China's Air Defense Zone

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the end of their joint news conference following their meeting at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Dec. 3, 2013. Biden urged Japan and China to lower
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the end of their joint news conference following their meeting at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Dec. 3, 2013. Biden urged Japan and China to lower
Daniel Schearf
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe say China's declared air defense zone in the East China Sea is intolerable and raises the risk of miscalculation leading to conflict. Beijing's unilateral move upset its neighbors as the zone overlaps disputed territory. 

Biden on Tuesday met with Japanese officials, including Abe, at the start of a week-long visit to Asia.

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The long-scheduled trip to the region was supposed to center on an increased U.S. focus on Asia and efforts to negotiate a trans-Pacific trade agreement.  But, Beijing's declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in November set off alarm bells in Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul.

China says any aircraft wanting to fly through the expanded zone in the East China Sea must first submit a flight plan to Beijing.  China also reserves the right to deny entry to the airspace. But the zone overlaps international waters and territory administered by Japan and South Korea.

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At a joint news conference after their meeting, Biden said the U.S. was deeply concerned about a move to change status quo in the East China Sea.

“This action has raised regional tensions and increased the risk of accidents and miscalculation,” the vice president said.

Biden said the risk of escalation is too high and underscores the need for crisis management mechanisms and effective channels of communication between China and Japan.

Abe echoed those concerns, saying they agreed China's actions should not be tolerated. He said they reaffirmed that policies and measures, including the operations of Japan's self defense and police forces would not change. Abe said Japan would work closely with the U.S. on the issue and agreed they would not condone any action that would threaten the safety of civilian aircraft.

Some Japanese media expressed alarm when Washington said U.S. commercial aircraft, for safety reasons, should abide by China's new rule.

Tokyo instructed its commercial carriers to ignore Beijing's declaration.  

Seoul plans to respond to China's overlapping defense zone by expanding its own zone.

China threatened unspecified defense measures for any aircraft that ignore the new rule while saying it would stop short of shooting down civilian airplanes.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei answers reporters' questions in Beijing, China (file photo)Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei answers reporters' questions in Beijing, China (file photo)
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei answers reporters' questions in Beijing, China (file photo)
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei answers reporters' questions in Beijing, China (file photo)
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Biden's remarks were based on the vice president's understanding of the air defense zone.

He said China has suggested strengthening dialogue with Japan to properly resolve the issue of flight safety, but the Japanese side keeps saying they should hold dialogue while closing the door to talks.

Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington all flew military aircraft in the zone last week without informing Beijing.

The defense zone overlaps disputed islands called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.  Tokyo has administrative control over the small but strategically important islands, but Beijing frequently asserts its claim to the territory with coast guard and jet fighter patrols.  

China's declared zone also overlaps a South Korean research station built on top of a submerged rock formation.

Biden said he will raise the issue with China's President Xi Jinping after he arrives Wednesday in Beijing.

The vice president on Thursday travels to South Korea to discuss security concerns raised by China and North Korea.

China's aggressive moves to assert its claims to disputed territory periodically raise tensions in Asia.

China's ambassador to the Philippines on Monday said Beijing has the right to declare a similar aviation defense zone over the South China Sea.  China claims most of the South China Sea putting it in conflict with claims by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

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Comment Sorting
by: james chen from: California, USA.
December 03, 2013 9:55 PM
Is Biden also going to visit Taiwan? (On the map, Taiwan is highlighted as dark blue too.)

by: Bobby from: Silicon Valley
December 03, 2013 6:25 PM
We must not have short memory about this matter. The whole dispute was initiated by Japan's unilateral move of annexing the disputed islands that is between the two nations. There were many better moves from the States to extinguish the dispute without invoking the "ally" subject. Somehow Washington thought by acting the brinksmanship is a better strategy of returning to the Asian Pacific region.
In Response

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
December 03, 2013 11:59 PM
It would be correct that the disputed islands belonged to no countries including Taiwan at the end of nineteenth century, just noticed by local residents of three countries and drawn on their each maps. Japan first and officially declared the sovereignty of the islands around the end of the win of Chino-Japanese war without any claim from China. It means the border was determined at that time.

by: Mark from: Florida
December 03, 2013 2:39 PM
Samurai--When you said "The only way to cope with the problems is to fight back the gangster and teach him international laws, or at least ethics and manners that every human must have," what are you proposing? Send Chinese leadership a letter about ethics and manners? What does "fight back" mean--bomb China? What country should bomb China? Move an armada into Chinese waters? Which nation, and who pays the bill? Japan has very little military, so does that mean you want the U.S. to fund whatever "fighting back" you are proposing? Have you considered that China is the primary purchaser of the U.S. bonds that fund the entire U.S. budget?

by: JKF from: Great North (Canada)
December 03, 2013 2:09 PM
It is very unfortunate to once again see that the countries with power can make their own rules. I guess all the Japanese peaceniks will now confront the Chinese with their bare hands... A reversal of roles, before WWII Japan was the supreme Asiatic power, held the imperialist crown, and it was the Chinese that confronted the Japanese with their bare hands; now the imperialist crown goes to China, and no change in behaviour by those that have power.

by: OldRedNed from: Africa
December 03, 2013 9:37 AM
I suppose for the USA, this all comes down to the same question asked about Berlin. Then it was 'Would the USA go to war with the (then) USSR over Berlin? Now it may become 'Would the USA go to war with China over a few unoccupied Japanese islands?

by: keith from: Washington
December 03, 2013 9:23 AM
Will we allow China's expanded "defense" zone? Why YES. Why? 'Cause we owe them a gazillon dollars!

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
December 03, 2013 1:06 AM
It is apparent that Biden refered to Chinese proclaimed ADIZ taking account of Japanese position as its primary ally. He must be sure China would never agree to repeal its ADIZ following Japanese request at coming meeting. China could not help including disputed islands in its AIDZ because if not, it implys China abandons the islands admitting Japanese sovereignty. I am sure China is setting another ADIZ in South China sea invading ASEAN countries' territorial sea. I am also certain China would declare the moon is her territory after its spacecraft's soft landing.

by: Murphy125 from: Ok
December 02, 2013 11:52 PM
Am I the only one worried about this? This has all the makings of Vietnam written all over it. What if(I hope not) a plane of US origin gets shot down for not complying to the defense zone? Then what? Do we go to war? Think about it what is the only way to get American jobs and factories back on business. WAR

by: Anonymous from: China
December 02, 2013 10:07 PM
The recommendation of the US government is right in terms of the sake of passengers,but Chinese mouthpieces use this to hype the US' compliance

by: JCJ from: USA
December 02, 2013 5:30 PM
Territorial disputes such as these should be settled by placing the disputed territory under international control where neither party has sovereignty until they can peacefully work out their differences. Both China and Japan are significant powers and any conflict between the two will have significant global implications. An enforceable vote by the world community that forces the two to the negotiating table to peacefully settle their claims would be a good first step. Until they can work out their differences both will be denied any claims to the islands in dispute.
While this requires concerted and determined action by the world community it is far preferable to open hostilities leading to war between the two states.
In Response

by: MapleLeavesNation from: Canada
December 03, 2013 9:35 AM
It's funny that China has often be called out as the bad guy, or "gangster". But unfortunately the fact of the matter is quite the opposite, this recent brawl has all been started by Japan's unilateral actions of "buying the island". China has no choice but to react. btw, did Japan consult China when the Japanese version of the ADIZ was set up decades ago?
In Response

by: Samurai from: Japan
December 03, 2013 1:49 AM
@JCJ from USA, your proposal sounds like a good idea, but a too ideal. Problems lie in (1) there is no such a fair judging organization (even in UN, several big-power countries including China have power of veto) and (2) it is not reasonable to have such a talk with a gangster (China, in this case) who unilaterally invades other persons' premises and insists that it has belonged to him since ancient times. The only way to cope with the problems is to fight back the gangster and teach him international laws, or at least ethics and manners that every human must have.

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