Monday 22 January 2018

Biden set to confront the Chinese over flying zone

Joe Biden
Joe Biden

Tom Phillips Shanghai

JOE Biden, the US vice-president, will convey Washington's "concerns" to China about its newly-declared air-defence zone during an upcoming visit, according to senior officials.

Mr Biden's visit to China next week comes days after the US flew two B-52 bombers through the zone, which has been implemented over islands it disputes with Japan.

Although Mr Biden, pictured, aims to de-escalate tensions in the region, a White House official said he will tell Chinese policy makers that "there's an emerging pattern of behaviour that is unsettling to China's own neighbours, and raising questions about how China operates in international space and how China deals with areas of disagreement with its neighbours".

The pilots did not notify Chinese authorities, as Beijing had demanded under the zone's rules. Analysts suggested Beijing may have been surprised by the strength of the US response but yesterday, a Chinese Foreign ministry spokesman said: "The Chinese government has enough determination and capability to defend national sovereignty."

The spokesman reportedly ducked a question about whether Beijing's failure to react to the presence of two American B-52s left it looking like a "paper tiger".

In a statement, China's defence ministry said it had "monitored" and "identified" the American planes "in a timely way".

"The Chinese side has the ability to effectively manage and control the relevant airspace," it said. The official reaction was muted but Chinese academics said Beijing was likely furious with what it would see as the US meddling in its backyard.

Sun Zhe, the head of the Centre for US-China Relations at Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University, condemned the flights as an "open provocation from the US" that had been deliberately designed to "embarrass" China's leaders.

"The US provocation threatens to turn the conflict between China and Japan into a conflict between China and the US," Prof Sun said.

Further "provocations" would compel China to "strike back" so as not to appear weak at home or abroad, he added.

Professor Zhang Liangui, from the Communist Party School's International Strategic Studies centre in Beijing, also labelled the flights a "provocation to China" but declined to speculate over Beijing's likely response.

"The US really shouldn't get involved," he said.


Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, the Asia-Pacific Director at the US Institute of Peace, said Beijing had "probably miscalculated the level of pushback" from Washington.

"I don't think they were doing it with a view to involving the US." Professor Zhang, from the Party School, said the ADIZ had been intended to "emphasise China's stance" over the disputed islands, referred to as the Senkaku by Tokyo and the Diaoyu by Beijing.

Irish Independent

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