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Reportedly Fearing Confrontation, Obama Admin. Directs U.S. Commercial Planes to Obey China's New Airspace Rules

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The directive “does not indicate U.S. government acceptance of China’s requirements."

FILE - In this Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011 file photo, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's P-3C Orion surveillance plane flies over the disputed islands in the East China Sea, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. China's new maritime air defense zone is unenforceable and dangerous, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday, Nov. 25, 2013 in a continuing war of words over air space that includes the area above islands claimed by both. Abe told a parliamentary session that China's declaration of an air defense identification zone alters the state of affairs in the East China Sea and escalates a tense situation. (AP Photo/Kyodo News, File) JAPAN OUT

(TheBlaze/AP) — Fearing a possible unintended confrontation, the Obama administration is advising American commercial airlines to comply with China’s demands to be notified in advance of flights through its newly declared air-defense zone over the East China Sea, according to the New York Times.

The directive isn't related to military planes, which the U.S. is continuing to send to the area without warning, the Times said, but administration officials said they expect civilian planes to stay in line with Beijing’s new rules.

“The U.S. government generally expects that U.S. carriers operating internationally will operate consistent with” notice requirements “issued by foreign countries,” the State Department said in a statement, adding that that “does not indicate U.S. government acceptance of China’s requirements," the Times reported.

Japan handled things a little differently.

It reportedly asked its airlines, which were voluntarily following China’s rules, to cease doing so, the Times said. The fear? That compliance would add legitimacy to China's new airspace rules, which involve islands claimed by both countries.

FILE - In this Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011 file photo, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's P-3C Orion surveillance plane flies over the disputed islands in the East China Sea, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. China's new maritime air defense zone is unenforceable and dangerous, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday, Nov. 25, 2013 in a continuing war of words over air space that includes the area above islands claimed by both. Abe told a parliamentary session that China's declaration of an air defense identification zone alters the state of affairs in the East China Sea and escalates a tense situation. (Image source: AP Photo/Kyodo News, File)

The zone is seen primarily as China's latest bid to bolster its claim over a string of uninhabited Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Beijing has been ratcheting up its sovereignty claims since Tokyo's nationalization of the islands last year.

In other developments, China launched two fighter planes Friday to investigate flights by a dozen U.S. and Japanese reconnaissance and military planes in the new zone, state media said.

The state-run China News quoted Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Shen Jinke as saying the Chinese fighter jets identified and monitored the two U.S. and 10 Japanese aircraft during their flights through the zone early Friday, but made no mention of any further action.

China announced last week that all aircraft entering the zone — a maritime area between China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan — must notify Chinese authorities beforehand, and that it would take unspecified defensive measures against those that don't comply. Neighboring countries and the U.S. have said they will not honor the new zone and have criticized the move, saying it unnecessarily raises tensions.

It was the first time China said it sent military planes into the zone on the same day as foreign military flights since proclaiming the zone on Nov. 23.

The United States and other countries have warned that the new zone could boost chances for miscalculations, accidents and conflicts, though analysts believe Beijing's move is not intended to spark any aerial confrontations but rather a long-term strategy to solidify claims to disputed territory by simply marking the area as its own.

China sent warplanes into its airspace zone on Thursday and placed its air force on high alert, the Associated Press reported.

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