Biden wants Japan, China to have communication channel over air defence zone
US No 2 says Beijing and Tokyo need system to avoid an incident over East China Sea escalating
Watch: Biden says China, Japan must communicate to end dispute
US Vice-President Joe Biden repeated yesterday that he was "deeply concerned" by China's new air defence identification zone (ADIZ), and urged Beijing and Tokyo to set up a communication system to deal with any crisis.
After meeting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, Biden said the new zone over the East China Sea had raised regional tensions and increased the risk of accidents and miscalculation.
"This underscores the need for crisis management mechanisms and effective channels of communication between China and Japan to reduce risk of escalation," he said.
Tensions in the region are at their highest in years, with China and Japan squaring off over a chain of uninhabited islands in a feud that has some observers warning of the danger of an armed confrontation.
The row over China's air zone will dominate Biden's meeting with President Xi Jinping .
On the eve of his arrival in China, defence ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng defended China's right and need to have such a zone, the declaration of which last month attracted criticism from the US and China's neighbours for being provocative and changing the status quo.
Under Chinese rules, all foreign aircraft - military and civilian - flying through the zone are required to report flight plans in advance or risk the consequences. The US has said such a move does not conform to international practice, by which such rules only apply to planes heading into a country's airspace.
"There are no international standards for how a country should set up its rules over the air defence identification zone," Geng said in a statement released by Xinhua.
"Many countries demand aircraft flying through their zones to report flight plans in advance. China is not the only country doing that."
Geng added that it was irresponsible for "certain countries" to insist on not reporting flight plans for their aircraft, alluding to Japan's objection.
The different interpretations of international practice and freedom of flight navigation between China and the US, which set up most of the air defence identification zones in Asia, will be a key issue during Biden's talks with Chinese leaders, experts have said. Biden, who is on a week-long trip to East Asia, will walk a fine line to reassure regional allies without disrupting the US relationship with China.
Yesterday, Biden said at a joint press conference with Abe that the US would "remain steadfast in our alliance's commitment", and that Washington was co-ordinating closely with Japan, South Korea and others.
At the same time, Abe appeared to try to smooth over a minor rift between the US and Japan over whether commercial airlines should comply with China's demand. Japanese leaders were concerned after word came that the US was advising American airlines, in line with existing protocol, to comply with such requests from foreign governments.
"We agreed we will not condone any action that could threaten safety of civilian aircraft," Abe said.
Biden will also meet Vice-President Li Yuanchao and Premier Li Keqiang .
Associated Press, Agence France-Presse