Japan and South Korea say their aircraft flew through China's newly declared air defense zone over the East China Sea, following the example of U.S. aircraft.
Both Japan and South Korea said Thursday their military planes flew through the controversial zone without complying with Beijing's newly declared rules. Both countries added that the flights took place with no apparent interference from China.
China declared an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over disputed waters in the East China Sea on Saturday. It said all foreign civilian and military aircraft flying in the zone must identify themselves and follow Beijing's instructions or face "emergency measures" which have not been specified.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang Thursday defended the new ADIZ and said many airlines from many countries have filed relevant applications to China's civil aviation departments.
"First I want to reiterate that China's establishment of the ADIZ is not directed against the normal international civil aviation. We hope that relevant airlines in other countries can cooperate to make our flights more secure."
The Chinese zone includes air space above a resource-rich chain of uninhabited islands claimed by China and controlled by Japan.
But the United States said it flew two unarmed B-52 bombers through the zone this week without notifying China. Japanese airlines operating in the area stopped submitting flight plans to Beijing on Wednesday, at the request of the Japanese government.
China's defense ministry said Wednesday it monitored the U.S. military planes while they transited the zone. It also insisted that China has the capability to exercise "effective control" of the air space.
The Chinese government's statements on the issue prompted many Internet users to describe the Chinese aerial zone as a farce. Those sympathetic to the government said stronger action is needed in the future.
In a Weibo message monitored by Reuters, outspoken retired Chinese Major General Luo Yuan called for the zone to be "enforced to the full" and said "no country must think that they can ... leave things to chance."
Chinese officials have said Beijing established the ADIZ to exercise its "right" to defend national sovereignty. They also have said China is acting like other nations that have created aerial notification zones in international airspace.
The United States and Japan have their own aerial zones, but only require foreign aircraft to identify themselves if those planes intend to pass through U.S. and Japanese national airspace.
Some information in this report was contributed by Reuters.