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China sends fighters to ID flights by U.S. and Japan

By Ian Mader

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 10:06 a.m. HST, Nov 29, 2013

BEIJING » China said it launched two fighter planes Friday (Thursday in Hawaii) to investigate flights by a dozen U.S. and Japanese reconnaissance and military planes in its new maritime air defense zone over the East China Sea.

It was the first time since proclaiming the zone on Nov. 23 that China said it sent planes there on the same day as foreign military flights, although it said it merely identified the foreign planes and took no further action.

China announced last week that all aircraft entering the zone — a maritime area between China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan — must notify Chinese authorities beforehand and that it would take unspecified defensive measures against those that don't comply. Neighboring countries and the U.S. have said they will not honor the new zone — believed aimed at claiming disputed territory — and have said it unnecessarily raises tensions.

The Ministry of Defense said the Chinese fighter jets identified and monitored the two U.S. reconnaissance aircraft and a mix of 10 Japanese early warning, reconnaissance and fighter planes during their flights through the zone early Friday.

"China's air force has faithfully carried out its mission and tasks, with China's navy, since it was tasked with patrolling the East China Sea air defense identification zone. It monitored throughout the entire flights, made timely identification and ascertained the types," ministry spokesman Col. Shen Jinke said in a statement on its website.

In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren, said when asked about China's statement, "The U.S. will continue to partner with our allies and will operate in the area as normal."

Japanese officials declined to confirm details of any flights, but said routine missions in the area were continuing.

"We are simply conducting our ordinary warning and surveillance activity like before. We have not encountered any abnormal instances so far, therefore we have not made any announcement," Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters in Tokyo.

The United States and other countries have warned that the new zone could boost chances for miscalculations, accidents and conflicts, though analysts believe Beijing's move is not intended to spark any aerial confrontations but rather is a long-term strategy to solidify claims to disputed territory by simply marking the area as its own.

June Teufel Dreyer, who specializes in security issues at the University of Miami, said the Chinese government — while backing down from strictly enforcing the zone to keep a lid on tensions — is walking a delicate line because it is faced with strong public opinion from nationalists at home. Sending up the fighter planes Friday was aimed at the domestic audience, and China is likely to send planes regularly when foreign aircraft enter the zone without notifying Chinese authorities, she said.

"They will be 'escorting' the intruding planes, but they are not going to shoot them," she said.

The zone is seen primarily as China's latest bid to bolster its claim over a string of uninhabited Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Beijing has been ratcheting up its sovereignty claims since Tokyo's nationalization of the islands last year. However, there are questions whether China has the technical ability to fully enforce the zone due to a shortage of early warning radar aircraft and in-flight refueling capability.

The United States, Japan and South Korea all have said they sent military flights into the zone over the past week, and Japanese commercial flights have continued unhindered — although China has said its zone is not intended to have any effect on commercial flights not heading to China.

Dreyer said the U.S. and Japan have kept sending planes into the zone to make good on the message that they are ignoring it. "They have to do it more than once to show they are serious," she said.

Dreyer said the Chinese government may have miscalculated the strength of the international response to the establishment of the zone, but that China will hold its line in the long run.

"The Chinese government is not going to concede the substance," she said. "When circumstances are more conducive, they will try to enforce it more strictly in the future. This is a pattern we have noticed for decades."

Associated Press writers Didi Tang in Beijing, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, and Robert Burns in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

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krusha wrote:
China better not shoot anybody down or their lone single aircraft carrier will the be the first thing put to the bottom of the ocean.
on November 29,2013 | 05:53AM
HD36 wrote:
Yea, then they'll have to sell a trillion dollars of US Treasury Bonds to buy a new one from Russia.
on November 29,2013 | 07:31AM
rockyhawaii wrote:
Interesting observation. What happens if the U.S. decides they won't pay on those bonds? Will China "foreclose" on the U.S.? With one aircraft carrier? I guess the nuclear option is there but they'd be equally screwed. Fears of the U.S. being at the mercy of China with regard to their enormous holdings of U.S. Treasury bonds seem a bit overblown in that context. The U.S. holds more cards at this point than people think. Think about it If you intended to go to war with someone, would you take a big chunk of your nation's wealth and lend it to your "enemy" like China has done? It won't be very pretty for the U.S. to default but war is war. We hear so much about rich Chinese buying up the world but, on a per capita basis, China is far from being a wealthy nation. It's still a Third World country by that measure, far poorer than the Soviet Union was in its heyday. There are millions of very wealthy Chinese who may not care because they have sequestered their wealth elsewhere but the vast majority of Chinese who are not as well off can't afford to have their government flush their futures down the toilet in a stupid war. The irony is that the communist party is feeling increasingly vulnerable so they need an external scapegoat to divert attention from their incompetence, which has the Chinese populace all riled up and ready to pick a fight that they are led to believe their country can afford pick when the reality is exactly the opposite.
on November 29,2013 | 02:14PM
Nevadan wrote:
Afghanistan and Iraq not enough? China too? The Nobel Peace Prize for his peace thoughts?
on November 29,2013 | 07:36AM
cojef wrote:
Provacation? Nah, just saber rattling to placate our Allies in the region.
on November 29,2013 | 08:08AM
hawaiinui wrote:
With foreign policy written on toilet paper, Obama continues to wipe the butts of our enemies and now this ridiculous challenge to the USAF. Remember, "speak softly but carry a big stick" quote? Well, Obama speaks softly alright so softly they can't hear him obviously, and the stick(?) he stands there bowing down and handing them the whooping stick he just cut of a tree called "dummy" himself. Not since the peanut farmer Carter, has any President opened the window of military and economic vulnerability so wide that NO country is afraid to fly through it and flaunt the fact in our faces. Sad day for Americans.
on November 29,2013 | 08:28AM
samidunn wrote:
China better watch out or we won't let them lend us anymore money.
on November 29,2013 | 08:57AM
HD36 wrote:
China just announced last week that they will no longer expand their foreign reserves as its no longer in the interest of the country. In other words they won't be lending anymore money to the US government. At the same time they've bought over 110 tonnes of gold via Hong Kong the last two months. And that's only the reported amount. Assymetric warfare. The weakest link is America's debt. They strive to replace the dollar as the world's reserve currency with the yuan or a basket of currencies and commodities. The Yuan Swap Exchange has moved to London and soon OPEC will be accepting Yuan for oil as the crack widens in the petro dollar. The Fed will expand QE at the March FOMC meeting instead of tapering. The yuan will appreciate vs the dollar, yen , and euro.
on November 29,2013 | 09:23AM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
China currently strictly controls the exchange rate of their currency, the Yuan. The government does not allow the Yuan to be exchanged on the open market for fear that it will appreciate in value as you suggested and kill China's export dependent economy. The US government actually wants China to allow the Yuan to be exchanged on the open market because inevitably, It will make Chinese goods more expensive and US products more competitive. China does want to replace the dollar as the world's reserve currency but not with the Yuan, at least not yet.
on November 29,2013 | 03:43PM
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