WASHINGTON/TOKYO, (Reuters) – Two unarmed U.S. B-52 bombers on a training mission flew over disputed islands in the East China Sea without informing Beijing, defying China’s declaration of a new airspace defense zone and raising the stakes in a territorial standoff.
The flight did not prompt a response from China, the Pentagon said, and the White House urged Beijing to resolve its dispute with Japan over the islands diplomatically, without resorting to “threats or inflammatory language”.
Also defying Beijing, Japan’s two biggest airlines – Japan Airlines and ANA Holdings – said they would stop giving flight plans and other information to Chinese authorities from Wednesday when passing through the zone. That followed a Japanese government request, the carriers said.
China published coordinates for an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone over the weekend and warned it would take “defensive emergency measures” against aircraft that failed to identify themselves properly in the airspace.
Japan’s aviation industry association said it had concluded there was no threat to passenger safety by ignoring the Chinese demands, JAL said. Both JAL and ANA posted notices on their websites informing its passengers of their decision.
The zone, about two thirds the size of Britain, covers the skies over islands at the heart of a territorial dispute that China has with close U.S. ally Japan.