China scrambles military planes after US and Japan fly sorties into new zone
Tensions rise as US and Japan fly sorties and South Korea puts contested island in its own zone
Chinese military aircraft were scrambled yesterday after US and Japanese planes flew into the mainland's new air defence identification zone.
Earlier, South Korea announced plans to include a tiny island contested with China under its own air defence zone, potentially raising the diplomatic temperature further.
PLA Air Force spokesman Shen Jianke said the air force ordered Su-30 and Qian-11 planes to verify the identity of the aircraft inside the zone yesterday morning.
The PLA identified two US aircraft and 10 Japanese aircraft. The US planes made two sorties across the zone, while the Japanese made seven.
Seoul said it had filed an official report informing China about its plan to include Ieo Island as part of its air defence zone, renewing tensions over the submerged rock that has been administered by Seoul but is now covered in Beijing's new air zone, South Korea's Chosun Ibo reported yesterday.
The small rock, which is about 3.4 metres under water, is now home to a research station built by South Korea. Beijing also claims the rock.
In June, an official from China's State Oceanic Administration told Chinese media that Beijing would regularly patrol around Ieo with ships and surveillance aircraft.
Japan's air defence zone also covers Ieo. But this does not pose any issue for South Korea as Japan is not a claimant, according to Scott Harold, an associate political scientist at the Rand Corporation.
Among signs of growing anger, the Taiwanese government said it would complain after Beijing failed to consult Taipei about declaring the zone in the East China Sea.
The US took the lead to defy Beijing's rules by sending two unarmed bombers across the area on Tuesday without prior notice. South Korea and Japan followed suit on Thursday.
While many are still debating China's intentions, analysts said the move had damaged Beijing's recent efforts to improve ties with its neighbours.
Harold from Rand said: "I don't think there is a single country in the immediate neighbourhood that you can say is not put off by China's action on this issue."
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse