WASHINGTON – U.S. commercial airlines should observe China’s demand that Beijing be given notice of aircraft entering its newly declared air defense zone, the State Department said Friday.
The Pentagon earlier indicated that American military forces would continue normal operations, despite China scrambling fighter jets to monitor U.S. and Japanese aircraft in the area.
China’s announcement last weekend that it was extending an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over islands disputed by China and Japan was disregarded by several nations, with U.S. B-52 bombers entering the area soon after.
“We have flights routinely transiting international airspace throughout the Pacific, including the area China is including in their ADIZ,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said.
“These flights are consistent with long-standing and well-known U.S. freedom of navigation policies that are applied in many areas of operation around the world. I can confirm that the U.S. has and will continue to operate in the area as normal.”
Compliance by commercial flights “does not indicate U.S. government acceptance of China’s requirements for operating in the newly declared ADIZ,” the State Department said in a statement.
Echoing previous statements by President Barack Obama’s administration, it said the United States was “deeply concerned” by China’s declaration of the ADIZ.
Japan, South Korea, the United States and other countries have accused Beijing of increasing regional tensions with the air defense zone.
But the scrambling of “several combat aircraft” by China, including at least two fighter jets — according to the official Xinhua News Agency — threatens to escalate the situation.
“Several combat aircraft were scrambled to verify the identities” of U.S. and Japanese aircraft entering the air defense zone, Xinhua said, quoting air force spokesman Shen Jinke.
The Chinese aircraft identified two U.S. surveillance aircraft and 10 Japanese aircraft, including an F-15 warplane, Shen said.