China and Japan raised the temperature in a territorial dispute yesterday with each summoning the other’s ambassador over Beijing’s declaration of an air defense zone, a move which Tokyo called “profoundly dangerous.”
The diplomatic scuffle came after Washington said it would stand by Japan in any military clash over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) — known as the Senkaku Islands by Japan.
Seoul and Taipei voiced their disquiet at China’s weekend announcement.
“I am strongly concerned as it is a profoundly dangerous act that may cause unintended consequences,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament. “Japan will ask China to restrain itself while we continue cooperating with the international community.”
Beijing on Saturday said it had established an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) that requires all aircraft flying over an area of the East China Sea to obey its orders.
The zone covers the Tokyo-controlled Senkakus, where ships and aircraft from the two countries already shadow each other in a potentially dangerous confrontation.
Japan Airlines (JAL) said it was submitting flight plans to China’s authority about its planes due to pass through the zone.
“We have received a NOTAM [notice to airmen] about the zone. We are submitting such flight plans as part of procedures in our daily routine,” a JAL public relations official said.
All Nippon Airways is following suit, the Jiji Press news agency reported.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington is “deeply concerned,” adding that the move raised “risks of an incident.”
Tokyo called in Beijing’s ambassador to demand a roll-back of the plan, which it said would “interfere with freedom of flight over the high seas,” but reportedly received short shrift from Chinese Ambassador Cheng Yonghua (程永華), who said Tokyo should retract its “unreasonable demand.”
Cheng’s opposite number in Beijing also got a carpeting in which he was told Japan should not make “irresponsible remarks” about the ADIZ.
Under the rules aircraft are expected to provide their flight plan, clearly mark their nationality, and maintain two-way radio communication allowing them to “respond in a timely and accurate manner” to identification inquiries from Chinese authorities, the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said.
The area also includes waters claimed by Taiwan and South Korea, and provoked anger in both places.
In Taipei, the government pledged to “defend its sovereignty over the archipelago.”
Part of the zone overlaps South Korea’s own air defense zone and incorporates a disputed, submerged, South Korean-controlled rock — known as Ieodo — that has long been a source of diplomatic tension with Beijing.
“I’d like to say once again that we have unchanging territorial control over Ieodo,” South Korean Ministry of Defense spokesman Kim Min-seok said yesterday.
Japan’s foreign ministry said it would not respect the Chinese demarcation, which had “no validity whatsoever in Japan.”
Beijing is engaged in a series of bilateral disputes over islands and the waters surrounding them, including several separate disputes in the South China Sea.
However, the most serious is with Japan over the archipelago in the East China Sea.
Tetsuro Kato, professor emeritus at Tokyo’s Hitotsubashi University, said China’s move was to be expected because thus far, no one has stopped Beijing as it tests how far it can push.