Australia summons Chinese envoy over airspace move

‘Air Defence Identification Zone’ labelled unhelpful amid regional tensions

Japan Coast Guard vessel PS206 Houou sails in front of Uotsuri island, one of the disputed islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China, in the East China Sea in this August 18th, 2013 file photo. Photograph: Ruairidh Villar/Reuters

Japan Coast Guard vessel PS206 Houou sails in front of Uotsuri island, one of the disputed islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China, in the East China Sea in this August 18th, 2013 file photo. Photograph: Ruairidh Villar/Reuters

Tue, Nov 26, 2013, 08:31

Australia has summoned China’s ambassador to express concern over its imposition of an “Air Defence Identification Zone” over the East China Sea, the foreign minister said today, decrying the move as unhelpful in a region beset by tension.

“The timing and the manner of China’s announcement are unhelpful in light of current regional tensions, and will not contribute to regional stability,” Julie Bishop said in a statement.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade yesterday called in China’s ambassador to convey the Australian government’s concerns and to seek an explanation of China’s intentions.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the ambassador “fully expounded upon China’s considerations and aims in setting up the East China Sea Air Defence Inspection Zone, and expounded upon our position and viewpoints”.

“[I] hope Australia can correctly understand [our motives], and work together to protect flight safety in the relevant zone. We also hope that Australia can actively work towards regional peace and stability,” he told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

Aviation officials yesterday said Asian airlines would inform China of their flight plans before entering airspace over waters disputed with Japan, effectively acknowledging Beijing’s authority over the newly declared zone.

Uninhabited islands

China published co-ordinates for the zone at the weekend. The area, about two-thirds the size of Britain, covers most of the East China Sea and the skies over a group of uninhabited islands at the centre of a bitter row between Beijing and Tokyo.

China says the zone will not affect what it calls normal operations of international flights and has rejected criticism of it from both Washington and Tokyo.

The official People’s Liberation Army Daily said there was no cause for alarm.

“In the ADIZ, generally there will only be a requirement for flying objects to report their nationality, position and flight plan, in order to ascertain position, and make identification and control easier,” it wrote in a commentary.

It said the only countries or people which could possibly be nervous about this were those who “have covetous hearts”.

“If there is no intention of casting greedy eyes on our territory, then why make expressions of worry?” the newspaper wrote.

China’s Defence Ministry says it will also set up other similar zones when the necessary preparations are completed, though it has yet to provide details.

China’s Defence Ministry said yesterday it had lodged formal protests with the US and Japanese embassies after both countries criticised the Chinese Air Defence Identification Zone.

Meanwhile, China sent its sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, on a training mission into the South China Sea today.

The vessel, bought used from Ukraine and refurbished in China, has conducted more than 100 exercises and experiments since it was commissioned last year but this is the first time it has been sent to the South China Sea.

The Liaoning represents the Chinese navy’s blue-water ambitions and has been the focus of a campaign to stir patriotism. It left port from the northern city of Qingdao accompanied by two destroyers and two frigates, the Chinese navy said on an official news website.

While there, it will carry out “scientific research, tests and military drills”, the report said.

China claims almost the entire oil- and gas-rich South China Sea, overlapping claims from Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Vietnam.

That dispute is one of the region’s biggest flashpoints, amid China’s military build-up and the US strategic “pivot” back to Asia signalled by the Obama administration in 2011.

Reuters