Japan said it has no intention of changing patrol operations or giving notice when entering China’s new air defense zone over the disputed Senkaku Islands, prompting an angry demand from Beijing to scrap its own long-established air zone instead.
“Despite China's announcement they have set up an air defense zone, we have carried out routine surveillance and intercept missions over the East China Sea, including the newly declared zone,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference Nov. 28 in Tokyo.
“The Self-Defense Forces will maintain the flexibility to conduct patrolling operations (in the area) using warring aircraft, destroyers and other vessels when the need arises,” Suga added.
Suga’s response comes as Chinese media reported that Beijing is demanding that aircraft entering the new zone file a flight plan and maintain two-way radio contact when entering the area.
“We will never change (our defensive protocol) out of consideration to China’s (moves),” the top government spokesman said defiantly. “To counter China’s attempt to alter the status quo through the use of force, we will continue our surveillance and intercept missions in earnest and with the resolve of protecting our land, water and air.”
Responding to Japan’s demands that China retract its new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that covers their disputed waters, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a news conference later the same day that, "If they want China to cancel the zone, then we would ask that Japan revoke its (ADIZ) zone first.”
“Japan established its own ADIZ in 1969,” Yang said. “Should that decision be retracted, we will then consider their demand in another 44 years," implying it was now China’s turn to claim the right to the skies over the islands.
Yang criticized Japan for purchasing three of the disputed Senkaku Islands from a private owner in September 2012, arguing the “nationalization” of the islets prompted in part Beijing’s decision to declare the disputed territory an air defense zone.
"Who is changing the status quo and accelerating regional tensions?” Yang asked. “We monitor and track all aircraft, no matter what country they originate from, that enter our ADIZ.”
Meanwhile, Tokyo and Washington reaffirmed the importance of Japan-U.S. cooperation in response to China’s new air zone declaration.
Suga discussed the issue with new U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy at the prime minister’s office on Nov. 28.
When the government's most senior spokesman said “it is very dangerous, and we are deeply concerned about the situation,” Kennedy responded that Japan and the United States need to more closely cooperate with one another.
(Nanae Kurashige in Beijing contributed to this article.)
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