Carefully treading a line between ensuring the safety of U.S. commercial aircraft and its refusal to accept China’s announcement of an air defence identification zone, the U.S. State Department has issued an advisory to airlines suggesting that they comply with instructions issued by Beijing in this regard.

Responding to a media question to Spokesperson Jen Psaki the Department issued a statement advising that the U.S. government “generally expects that U.S. carriers operating internationally will operate consistent with Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) issued by foreign countries.”

However it was quick to add that its expectation that the operations of U.S. carriers would be consistent with NOTAMs did not indicate the U.S. government’s acceptance of China’s requirements for operating in the newly declared ADIZ.

Underscoring its disagreement with Beijing’s ADIZ announcement, made on November 23, the State Department further said, “Freedom of over-flight and other internationally lawful uses of sea and airspace are essential to prosperity, stability, and security in the Pacific,” and it remained “deeply concerned” by China’s declaration of the ADIZ in the East China Sea.

Commenting on the latest advisory David Finkelstein, Vice President of the Centre for Naval Analyses and Director of the group’s China Studies division, said to The Hindu that it might have been issued with an eye toward the safety of civilian air traffic given the current dynamic situation.

However, Dr. Finkelstein noted, “U.S. military operations will continue as usual and will not be providing advance notifications. So it is important to distinguish between the two.”

The latest official comments on the ADIZ come in the wake of two U.S. B-52 bombers flying through the ADIZ for two hours and 20 minutes on November 26, a move that some said the U.S. may have made to underscore its non-acceptance of China’s demarcation of the ADIZ.

Throughout the duration of their flight the U.S. military aircraft did not announce or otherwise identify themselves to Chinese authorities and no contact between the two occurred.

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