China launched two fighter jets to patrol the newly announced “air defense identification zone” on Thursday, after the U.S., Japan, and South Korea had flown military aircraft through in defiance of their East China Sea claim.
Since announcing the zone, which overlaps with a similar Japanese zone that includes a string of disputed islands in the East China Sea, China has clarified that it was “not a territorial airspace,” and that unidentified warplanes that entered it could not be shot down.
However, China says the nation “has the right to identify and ascertain the intentions and attributes of aircraft from foreign countries and make the relevant response according to different situations and degree of threats,” said Col. Yang Yujun, a Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman, during a press conference in Beijing.
Last week China said that all aircraft entering the “air defense identification zone” — which is a maritime area between China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan –must notify Chinese authorities prior, and that it would take unspecified defensive action against those nations who do not abide by the new zone’s boundaries.
Neighboring countries and the U.S. have said they will not honor the new zone and have criticized the move, saying it unnecessarily raises tensions.
The state-run China News quoted Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Shen Jinke as saying the Chinese fighter jets identified and monitored two U.S. and 10 Japanese aircraft during their flights through the zone early Friday.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Tokyo, Beijing, and Seoul on December 1 to discuss the rising tension that the zone has created between nations since it was announced on Saturday. The trip had initially been intended to discuss economic issues, but the latest announcement has shifted the focus of that meeting.