Japan’s airlines to obey contentious China ADIZ rules

AFP-JIJI, Bloomberg

Japanese airlines said Tuesday they will follow rules set by China when it declared an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea, even as Tokyo said they should ignore them since the ADIZ covers Japan-controlled territory and overlaps Japan’s zone.

All Nippon Airways said that since Sunday it has been submitting flight plans to Chinese authorities for any plane that was due to pass through the area. Its affiliate, Peach Aviation, said it was doing the same “for now.”

The announcements came after former flagship carrier Japan Airlines said it was complying with demands Beijing set out on Saturday when it said it had established an ADIZ where all aircraft were required to obey its orders.

The zone covers the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands, which Beijing claims and calls Diaoyu, where ships and aircraft from the two countries already shadow each other in a dangerous game of cat and mouse.

“We have taken the measures in line with international regulations,” an ANA spokesman said. “Safety is our top priority. We have to avoid any possibility of the worst-case scenario.”

Peach Aviation said it had taken similar steps. “We will continue submitting our flight plans to the Chinese side for now,” a spokesman said.

Transport Minister Akihiro Ota insisted that the Chinese declaration was “not valid” and called on Japanese airlines to ignore it.

In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday that the U.S. won’t change its flight operations to comply with China’s newly claimed air defense zone.

“We will not in any way change how we conduct our operations,” army Col. Steve Warren told reporters at the Pentagon. U.S. pilots won’t register their flight plans or identify their transponder or frequency, Warren said.

“We see it as destabilizing,” Warren said of China’s decision. He said U.S. pilots always maintain the ability to defend themselves.

On Monday, Tokyo called in Beijing’s ambassador to demand a rollback of the plan, which it said would “interfere with freedom of flight over the high seas,” but was rebuffed by Cheng Yonghua, who said Tokyo should retract its “unreasonable demand.”

Under the rules aircraft are expected to provide their flight plan, clearly mark their nationality, and maintain two-way radio communications allowing them to “respond in a timely and accurate manner” to identification inquiries from Chinese authorities.

The area also includes waters claimed by Taiwan and South Korea, which are also displeased.