Two days after China announced the establishment of an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) to bolster its claims over parts of the disputed East China Sea, the United States dispatched two B-52 bombers to fly through the contested area, according to a report on Tuesday.
Chinese authorities did not make contact with the two B-52 bombers, which flew out of the Anderson Air Force Base in Guam as part of an earlier planned exercise and crossed over into the zone, flying above the disputed East China Sea islands that are at the heart of a territorial dispute between China and Japan.
U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal that the planes departed from Guam at around 5.30 am IST on Tuesday morning. The Chinese government announced that starting Saturday morning, it would track and monitor all aircraft that enter the ADIZ. Aircraft that failed to notify Chinese authorities of their flight plans could face interception from air defence forces.
China’s move to set up an ADIZ, which extends beyond its territorial airspace over parts of the East China Sea, including the disputed Senkaku or Diaoyu islands, and up to 130 km of Japan’s territorial airspace, brought angry responses from Japan, which has blasted the move as a provocation.
U.S. officials have also expressed deep concern over the move, suggesting it would fuel tensions between China and Japan. U.S. aircraft, they have stressed, will not adhere to China's newly announced demands.
On Monday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry hit out at the U.S. for making “irresponsible accusations”. Chinese officials have defended the move, saying that other countries, including the U.S. and Japan, have already established similar zones beyond their territorial airspace to track aircraft for security purposes.
China’s ADIZ overlaps with the air defence zone that Japan has already set up in the East China Sea, which also extends over the disputed islands and up to 130 km of Chinese airspace.
The timing of Beijing’s move, analysts said, may raise the likelihood of confrontations between the two countries, which have, in recent months, stepped up efforts to enforce their claims both on water and in the air.
Naval vessels from both countries have had run-ins near the islands, while Japan has threatened to shoot down Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that have been deployed in the region and has scrambled fighter-jets in response, to enforce its claims.