China says Japan's 'hype' over air defence zone spreads regional tension
China does not feel threatened by countries in Southeast Asia and is optimistic about the situation in the disputed South China Sea, the foreign ministry said, warning Japan not to spread rumours it plans a new Air Defence Identification Zone.
China alarmed Japan, South Korea and the United States last year when it announced a zone for the East China Sea, covering a group of uninhabited islands at the centre of a bitter ownership spat between Beijing and Tokyo.
Watch: What is the East China Sea dispute about?
The Japanese Asahi newspaper said last week China was considering setting up a similar zone, where foreign aircraft are supposed to report their movements, in the South China Sea, prompting the US State Department to warn against such a move.
In a statement released late on Saturday, the foreign ministry in Beijing implied there was no need for such a zone in the South China Sea, where China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taipei all have competing territorial claims.
"Generally speaking, China does not feel there is an air security threat from Asean countries," the ministry said, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
"China feels optimistic about relations with countries surrounding the South China Sea and the general situation in the South China Sea," the ministry said.
While the foreign ministry said China had a right to set up Air Defence Identification Zones, it criticised Japan for allegedly attempting to distract attention from its own military plans.
"Right-wing forces in Japan have again been hyping up so-called plans that China will shortly set up an Air Defence Identification Zone in the South China Sea, which is purely to try to distract international attention to cover up their conspiracy to expand their military," the ministry said.
"We warn these forces not to delude people with rumours for their own selfish interests and to play up tensions, and hope the relevant party talks and acts cautiously," it said.
Three Chinese ships sailed through disputed waters off Tokyo-controlled islands yesterday, according to Japan's coastguard.
The Chinese coastguard vessels spent more than two hours in the 12-nautical-mile territorial waters off one of the Senkakus, which China claims and calls the Diaoyus, it said.
China's State Oceanic Administration said three of its coastguard ships were patrolling territorial waters surrounding the Diaoyu islands, according to Xinhua.
China has regularly dispatched patrols to the East China Sea since it established the Air Defence Identification Zone in November.
Beijing has repeatedly denied Japanese accusations of being a threat to peace.
Reuters and Agence-France-Presse