BEIJING (AP) — China said Friday it has begun issuing warnings to foreign military planes entering its self-declared air defense zone over the East China Sea, an indication of its determination to follow through on a measure already blamed for raising tensions in the region.
State media quoted air force spokesman Shen Jinke as saying that multiple types of Chinese planes recently conducted a long-range patrol inside the sweeping zone that was declared in November.
Shen said the Chinese planes identified a number of foreign military aircraft, flew alongside them and issued warnings to them. He didn’t identify the planes or say when the patrol was conducted.
The U.S., Japan and other countries denounced the zone’s declaration in November as provocative and said they would ignore China’s demands that their military aircraft announce flight plans, identify themselves and follow Chinese instructions. China has said it would take unspecified measures against aircraft that disobey.
However, Shen repeated China’s insistence that it was within its rights in following Japan, the U.S. and others in declaring such zones along its coastline to guard against hostile incursions.
The zone is a “purely defensive measure that conforms to international practice,” Shen said.
The zone is seen primarily as targeting Japanese and U.S. military flights over the East China Sea and its declaration followed more than a year of heightened tensions between China and Japan over control of a series of tiny uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. The zone pointedly incorporates the island china, known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, which are controlled by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.
Friday’s announcement follows a new spike in tensions with Japan over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to a shrine honoring war dead, including commanders executed as war criminals for committing atrocities in China and elsewhere during World War II. China has furiously protested the visit and launched a new round of invective against Japan in international media and diplomatic circles.