Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera indicated Sunday that Tokyo won’t change its stance on urging Japanese airlines not to submit their flight plans as requested by China for its new air defense identification zone over the East China Sea, labeling the demand a “one-sided action” by Beijing that deviates from international rules.
U.S. media have reported that Washington, in an apparent partial about-face, has urged U.S. airlines to submit their flight plans to avoid any unintended confrontation, while stressing that the U.S. has not accepted the ADIZ and that it will not avoid sending military aircraft into the area.
Interest has been keen on whether Japan will follow Washington’s lead.
“After all, (Japanese carriers) including commercial airlines are usually not obliged to report such things to respond to what China is (demanding) one-sidedly. We will handle this issue with a resolute attitude,” Onodera said in a recorded interview with NHK that was aired Sunday morning.
He also said he is concerned Beijing may be trying to set up a similar zone over the South China Sea. That would greatly raise tensions between China and the countries in that area, he said.
“The international community should not allow (a country) to take such a unilateral approach,” he said.
Tokyo is trying to garner support from other countries for its stance. On Saturday, officials proposed to the International Civil Aviation Organization that its member countries discuss how to react to China’s establishment of the zone.
The U.S. may be sending a mixed message to China.
While making clear it will not make any compromises in maintaining its military operations in the ADIZ, set up over the high seas, Washington also said it “generally expects that U.S. carriers operating internationally will operate consistently with” requirements “issued by foreign countries.”
According to CNN, U.S. airlines United, American and Delta confirmed Saturday that they have notified Chinese authorities of flight plans in the zone.
During Sunday’s interview, Onodera said Japan still believes Washington has maintained the same stance as Tokyo, saying that the U.S. government told Japan through diplomatic channels that it has not “requested” U.S. commercial airlines to follow the Chinese demand.
“We believe the U.S. has maintained the same stance as Japan,” he said.
Japan, the U.S. and many other countries have ADIZs, but they only “request” that foreign aircraft notify them of flight plans when they fly toward the territorial airspace.
China has said all aircraft flying through its zone must comply with the aviation rules set by Beijing and that it might take “defensive measures” if they do not comply.