Fri, Dec 06, 2013 - Page 1 News List

US warns Beijing against escalating air zone tensions

AFP, BEIJING

US Vice President Joe Biden yesterday warned China against escalating a dispute over an East China Sea air zone, adding that regional peace and stability were in Beijing’s interests.

Biden also criticized China’s tightening of controls on foreign journalists, saying that the world’s second-largest economy could become more prosperous with US values such as human rights and freedom of speech.

China’s controversial move last month to declare an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) — which includes islands also claimed by Taiwan and Japan — has “caused significant apprehension in the region,” Biden told a group of 60 US business leaders yesterday morning.

“As China’s economy grows, its stake in regional peace and stability will continue to grow as well, because it has so much more to lose,” he said. “That’s why China will bear increasing responsibility to contribute positively to peace and security.”

Biden reiterated in his meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) that the US does not recognize China’s newly declared air zone, a senior White House official told reporters in Beijing late on Wednesday.

China says all aircraft within the zone must obey its instructions or risk unspecified “defensive emergency measures.”

The move provoked anger in the region and prompted the US, Japan and South Korea all to defy Beijing by flying military and paramilitary aircraft — including two B-52 bombers in Washington’s case — into the newly declared zone.

The US official, who spoke anonymously in order to discuss Biden’s talks, added that it is now up to Beijing to take action “to avoid the risk of mistake, miscalculation, accident or escalation.”

Meanwhile, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei (洪磊) said that the US “should respect” that the zone “is in line with international laws and conventions.”

Biden also emphasized the importance of freedom of expression and human rights, saying that they were key to its future prosperity.

“Innovation thrives where people breathe freely, speak freely, are able to challenge orthodoxy, where newspapers can report the truth without fear of consequences,” he said, adding that China “will be stronger and more stable and more innovative if it respects universal human rights.”

He also voiced criticism of Beijing’s treatment of US journalists.

Several US news outlets that have published investigations into Chinese leaders’ family wealth had their Web sites blocked in the country and not received visas for their reporters.

The US and China still have “many disagreements,” Biden said, including some he described as “profound” such as on “the treatment of US journalists.”

Hong responded that “we have been providing a very convenient environment for news coverage for foreign media and the working and living environment for foreign media in China is good.”

“As long as you are objective and just, I think an objective conclusion can be reached on that,” he said.

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