American officials came down hard on Beijing’s November 23 demarcation of an Air Defence Identification Zone that includes territory it disputes with Japan, even as they defended the flights by two American B-52 bombers that flew through the ADIZ 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.”