American officials came down hard on Beijing’s November 23, 2013 demarcation of an Air Defence Identification Zone that includes territory it disputes with Japan, even as they defended the flight of two American B-52 bombers through the zone as being “part of a long-planned training sortie”.
Speaking to media, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said the announcement of the ADIZ, which includes the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, was “unnecessarily inflammatory and has a destabilising impact on the region.” He added that such differences should not be addressed with “threats” but rather could and should be resolved diplomatically.
Earlier, Pentagon spokesman Tom Crosson said the warplanes were not intercepted or otherwise challenged but neither did the U.S. pilots announce themselves during the flight, which was said to have lasted two hours and 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, the State Department was quick to confirm that there was no change in its long-standing policy on the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute.
To a question whether Washington had allowed itself to get dragged into the dispute regarding the islands, spokesperson Jen Psaki said: “I don’t think that there’s been any bait taken. … When there are concerns that need to be expressed, we are not shy about expressing them… We don’t take a position on the question of sovereignty. That hasn’t changed.”
However, Ms. Psaki also hit out at China’s “attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in the East China Sea,” which would “raise regional tensions and increase the risk of miscalculation, confrontation, and accidents.”
The department confirmed that multiple efforts were under way to reach out to Beijing diplomatically to voice this concern, including conversations between Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel and the Chinese Ambassador here, and between U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke and his Chinese interlocutors.
Additionally, the Department noted in a read-out on Wednesday, Washington was concurrently consulting “Japan and other affected parties throughout the region in response to this announcement,” and in a call with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated his own and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel’s expressions of “concern” about China’s ADIZ designation.
On Wednesday, Mr. Hagel in a call with Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera was said to have “commended the Japanese government for exercising appropriate restraint,” and assured him that U.S. military operations “will not in any way change as a result of China’s announcement.”