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US Warplanes Defy Chinese Air Defense Zone

by Luis Ramirez November 27, 2013

The U.S. military has made clear its position on China's new aviation restricted zone by flying two bombers through the area. China recently restricted air space in part of the East China Sea to assert its claim over a group of disputed islands.

Beijing had warned U.S. aircraft to check in with Chinese forces as part of a plan to assert its claim over the Senkaku islands, which in China are known as the Diaoyu. Both China and Japan regard the small island chain as their own.

The Chinese said all aircraft would be required to identify themselves.

Pentagon spokesman, Army Colonel Steve Warren, said that the area in question international air space, and U.S. pilots will not comply.

“The United States will do none of this. We will continue to conduct operations as we always have in this area and not identify flight plans, radio frequencies, or logos," said Warren.

The first test came on Tuesday, when two American B-52 bombers ignored the Chinese requirements and flew into the area near the islands without incident.

Analysts believe the Chinese military does not have the radar or other capabilities that would be needed to enforce the declared restrictions.

However, perceptions fueled by deep cuts to the U.S. defense budget and a U.S. reluctance to get involved in conflicts around the world have emboldened China to confront the U.S.

Patrick Cronin, an Asia specialist at the Center for New American Security, a research group that advises the Obama administration, said the Chinese are gambling on how Washington will respond.

"China's betting that we are more worried about a military confrontation than they are to some extent, but they're not thinking this through very deeply. China will be embarrassed by some kind of confrontation," said Cronin.

The U.S. sees China's decision to impose restrictions on U.S. aircraft as a dangerous move that analysts say could lead to a major international incident.

"While nobody is looking for conflict, and while it's not likely to lead to war, the possibility and the risk of some shots being fired, or some aircraft or ship being shot at, has increased markedly because of Chinese unilateral changes to the status quo," declared Cronin.

In the absence of an actual incident, U.S. forces say they will conduct training operations in the area as usual and are not sending additional assets to the region.

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