Tokyo again requests no flight plans be filed

Airlines urged to defy China's ADIZ

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

The government repeated Monday that it will continue to urge the nation’s airlines not to comply with the rules laid down in China’s recently, unilaterally declared air defense identification zone over the East China Sea that includes the disputed, Japan-held Senkaku islets.

China is demanding that aircraft entering its new ADIZ file flight plans and comply with other rules. Japanese and U.S. military aircraft, however, have snubbed Beijing’s demand and flown through the zone.

“Our stance won’t change,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday.

“(Washington) said it hasn’t urged private carriers (to submit flight plans to Chinese authorities). As U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is expected to arrive in Japan today, we will continue to cooperate closely together using this kind of opportunity.”

Biden was slated to arrive in Tokyo late Monday and hold talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday.

Suga’s comments follow U.S. media reports that Washington effectively advised American carriers to comply with China’s demands to submit flight plans before entering the newly declared zone, which overlaps with that of Japan’s. Such a move is at odds with Tokyo’s stance of urging domestic airlines to refrain from submitting flight plans to Chinese authorities.

Following the U.S. government’s advice, three major American airlines — United, American and Delta — reportedly have notified Chinese authorities of their planes’ flight plans before they travel through ADIZ.

Meanwhile, following a request from the transport ministry, Japanese carriers stopped submitting their flight plans to China on Wednesday.

Officials at Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. said Monday that they began filing flight plans to Chinese authorities following its declaration of the zone, but they stopped doing so upon the ministry’s request.

“We haven’t received any request from the government (since the Nov. 26 ministry request), and so we haven’t changed our policy. The government has confirmed the safety of flying through the zone (without a flight plan),” a JAL spokesman said.

As long as the government’s stance over the safety of flying through the zone remains the same, the carriers do not envisage submitting flight plans to China, officials said.

However, experts warn that taking a different stance from Washington could jeopardize the safety of Japanese commercial carriers.

Tadasu Kumagai, a military analyst, said that although the chances are slim, there is a possibility China will scramble fighter jets when a foreign airplane enters the zone without a flight plan.

“The possibility of Chinese (forces getting) out of control is not zero. Such concerns still remain,” Kumagai said.

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