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China air zone raises risk of accidents,says Biden

'This action has raised regional tensions and increased the risk of accidents'

Written by Associated Press | Tokyo |
December 4, 2013 12:32:14 am

US Vice President Joe Biden voiced strong opposition Tuesday to China’s new air defence zone above a set of disputed islands,showing a united front with an anxious Japan as tension in the region simmered.

Standing side by side in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,Biden said the US is “deeply concerned” about China’s attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in the East China Sea.

“This action has raised regional tensions and increased the risk of accidents and miscalculation,” he said.

Biden said the US is coordinating closely with allies Japan,South Korea and others,adding that the US has an interest in lowering tensions in the region.

“I will be raising these issues with great specificity when I meet with Chinese leadership the day after tomorrow,” Biden said.

Biden’s remarks came as Japan is pressing the US to more actively take Japan’s side in an escalating dispute over China’s new air defense zone above a set of contested islands in the East China Sea.

The US and Japan have refused to recognise China’s air defense zone above tiny islands that China and Japan both claim. The US and its allies are concerned China’s move is part of a broader strategy to assert increasing authority in the region.

“The prospect for miscalculation and mistake is too high,” Biden said of the air defense zone.

Abe,who met with Biden at the PM’s residence here Tuesday,said he and Biden confirmed that neither country would tolerate the attempt to change the status quo by force. He invoked Japan’s decades-long alliance with the US in pledging the two would work closely to deal with the situation.

At the same time,Abe appeared to try to smooth over a minor rift that emerged between the US and Japan over whether commercial airlines should comply with China’s demand that they file flight plans before flying through the zone.

Reluctant to cede any ground,Tokyo has been urging Japanese commercial flights not to notify China before flying through the zone. Word that the US had advised American commercial carriers to comply rankled leaders in Tokyo,who are hoping a united front with the US will increase pressure on Beijing to reverse course.

“We agreed we will not condone any action that could threaten safety of civilian aircraft,” Abe said.

But senior Obama administration officials said Tuesday that the US never told American commercial carriers to comply specifically with China’s demands.

The zone covers more than 600 miles from north to south,above international waters separating China,South Korea,Japan and Taiwan. China says all aircraft entering the zone must notify Chinese authorities beforehand or face unspecified defensive measures.

Although the US has joined Japan in refusing to recognise the zone,Washington has treaded carefully,wary of creating a new fault line in its relationship with China just as the US is pursuing a new era of economic cooperation with Beijing.

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