The Chinese foreign ministry has lashed out at Shinzo Abe, Japanese prime minister, for “malicious slander” over China’s attempt to determine access to airspace over a group of disputed islands.
Beijing’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ), which lies partly over the uninhabited islands northeast of Taiwan known as the Diaoyu in China and the Senkaku in Japan, has raised regional temperatures and triggered protests from Japan, the US and South Korea.
Military strategists say the zone adds to the risk of an inadvertent confrontation in northeast Asia, where sea boundaries are not delineated and historic animosity runs deep.
“We express strong dissatisfaction with Japan’s leader using an international occasion to maliciously slander China,” said a statement posted on the Chinese foreign ministry website and attributed to Hong Lei, its spokesman. “The Chinese side took necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is totally legitimate and irreproachable.”
Mr Abe had explicitly denounced the zone after a Tokyo summit with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). “The air defence identification zone China has established in the East China Sea is unjustly violating the freedom of aviation over the high seas, which is a general rule in international law,” Mr Abe told a press conference on Saturday. “We are demanding China rescind all measures like this that unjustly violate the general rule.”
A joint statement after the Japan-Asean summit agreed on the need for freedom of the high seas and skies and the peaceful resolution of disputes, but did not directly criticise China’s new air zone. Many Asean members have deep economic ties with China.
Military strategists worry that the feints and bluffs seen between Chinese ships and those of other nations could more easily lead to miscalculations if carried out by fighter jets.
China’s military has been reluctant to engage in talks over codes of conduct or communication in case of a crisis, said Carlyle Thayer, formerly with the US Pacific Command and now a researcher at the Australian Defense Force Academy.
“It’s a high-risk game here, of each side flying up to show the ADIZ is theirs,” he said.
The US Navy said on Friday that the USS Cowpens, a guided-missile cruiser, had been forced to take evasive action to avoid a collision with a ship from the People’s Liberation Army Navy on December 5, while Joe Biden, US vice-president, was touring northeast Asia.
The Chinese ship had been accompanying China’s only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which China had deployed to the South China Sea amid tension over the air defence zone.
曾在美国太平洋司令部(United States Pacific Command, USPACOM)工作、如今在澳大利亚国防学院(ADFA)担任研究员的卡莱尔?塞尔(Carlyle Thayer)表示，中国军方一直不愿参与有关行为准则或危机期间沟通的磋商。
美国海军上周五表示，美国导弹巡洋舰“考彭斯号”(USS Cowpens)在12月5日曾被迫采取规避动作，以免与解放军海军的一艘军舰相撞。当时美国副总统乔?拜登(Joe Biden)正在访问东北亚。
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