China denies any plans for South China Sea air defence zone
2 February 2014, 10:18
China has denied it has any plans to set up an air defence zone over the South China Sea. 'Right-wing forces of Japan have repeatedly clamoured about the alleged plan,' Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei was quoted as saying by the Xinhua news agency on Saturday.
'This move is of ulterior motive and simply aimed at shifting international attention from and covering up the plot to change Japan's pacifist constitution and expand its military power.'
A report published in Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper on Friday alleged that air force officials in China 'have already worked out a draft plan' for the zone over the South China Sea centred on a group of islands disputed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan.
The US State Department warned that any such move would be seen 'as a provocative and unilateral act that would raise tensions and call into serious question China's commitment to diplomatically managing territorial disputes,' spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
Hong said China hoped relevant parties 'remain cautious about their words and deeds, maintain a calm and objective stance, make joint efforts with China and make a concrete contribution to peace, stability and security in the air and on sea of the region,' Xinhua reported.
China and the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) 'are working together to implement the declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea in a comprehensive and effective way to safeguard peace and stability in the region,' Hong said.
Beijing claims nearly all of the South China Sea. Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei have competing claims with China, as does Taiwan.
The sea contains key shipping lanes and oil reserves estimated at up to 30 billion tons, plus 20 trillion cubic metres of gas reserves, according to China's Ministry of Land and Resources.
Any new Chinese zone would pose problems for busy air traffic lanes and escalate tensions in the region.
China on November 23 announced it was establishing an air zone that covers a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea that are disputed with Japan.
Aircraft flying into the zone are required to identify themselves and provide flight data to China's Foreign Ministry or civil aviation authorities, according to the ministry.
The United States three days later flew two B-52 bombers without incident through the zone that it considers international waters.
Since then, US, South Korean and Japanese military aircraft have all violated the zone and its conditions. China in response has sent fighter jets to patrol the area as a 'defensive measure.'
Voice of Russia, dpa
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