Japan and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations will call for freedom of airspace over the high seas in a communiqué at a Tokyo summit next week, a move directed at China's new air defence zone, Kyodo news agency reported yesterday.
A draft of the joint statement reportedly expressed the resolve of Japan and Asean to bolster co-operation in maritime security.
"The air defence identification zone is already an international issue. The meeting would lack edge if a strong message could not be issued [on the matter]," Kyodo quoted an unnamed Japanese diplomatic source.
Japan and four members of Asean - Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia - all have territorial disputes with China in the East or South China seas.
The Tokyo summit will mark the 40th anniversary of Japan's ties with Asean and comes after China last month declared an air defence identification zone in an area that included islands at the heart of a territorial dispute with Japan, triggering protests from Tokyo, Washington and Seoul.
China warned it would take "defensive emergency measures" against aircraft that failed to identify themselves properly in the new zone, raising regional tension.
Kyodo said a draft of the summit statement stressed the importance of freedom of aviation over the high seas and contained a pledge that Japan and Asean would contribute to peaceful development of international aviation order. The three-day summit is scheduled to start on Friday.
Japan's ties with China deteriorated last year when it bought from a private owner three of the disputed islands in the East China Sea, called the Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyus in China. Beijing claims almost the entire oil- and gas-rich South China Sea, overlapping with claims from Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Vietnam.