Japan and South Korea have both flown military aircraft into China’s new air defence zone, amid escalating tensions in the East China Sea that have also drawn in the US.
China on Saturday created the “air defence identification zone” and declared that aircraft passing through the area – which includes the airspace over the contested Senkaku Islands – must inform Beijing.
But neither Japan or South Korea did so before conducting subsequent aerial surveillance operations.
Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, yesterday said Japanese military aircraft were “carrying out surveillance activity as before in the East China Sea”, including inside China’s new air defence identification zone.
“We are not going to change this out of consideration to China,” said Mr Suga, without saying how often Japanese military aircraft had entered the zone.
The South Korean defence ministry yesterday said it had conducted a routine surveillance mission on Tuesday over a submerged rock NOTE - NOT PART OF SENKAKU, JUST IN ZONEwhere Seoul has a scientific research centre, but to which China also lays claim.
Tensions between Beijing and Tokyo have mounted over the past year as Chinese ships and aircraft try to weaken Japan’s control over the group of five uninhabited islands and three rocks that are known in China as the Diaoyu. Japan angered China last year by buying three of the islands from their private Japanese owner.
China has said the creation of the air zone – which overlaps with corresponding Japanese and South Korean zones – was a “legitimate action” and not targeted at any one country. But the move has sparked criticism across the region and drawn sharp a sharp rebuke from the US.
At a meeting in Seoul yesterday, Chinese military officials rejected calls from South Korea to reconsider the zone, according to Seoul’s defence ministry.
“Japan and the US should carefully reflect upon and immediately correct their mistakes,” a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said yesterday.
“They should stop their irresponsible accusations against China and refrain from remarks and actions that harm regional stability.”
The Japanese and South Korean surveillance missions came after the US sent a pair of B-52 bombers through the air defence zone on Tuesday.
On Wednesday Japanese airlines reversed earlier compliance and began flouting rules laid down by Beijing.