White House rejects China’s airspace claim

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama is formally rejecting China’s efforts to claim control of international airspace alongside Japanese islands in the Pacific.

“We do not accept the legitimacy of what China announced,” Carney repeatedly told reporters during a midday press conference.

Vice President Joe Biden will carry the same message to political leaders during his trip this week to Japan, China and South Korea, Carney said. Biden is scheduled to visit with top Chinese leaders on Wednesday.

Obama’s apparently firm stand may solidify weakening U.S. alliances in the region, and may deter further Chinese advances.

China declared Nov. 23 that its national air-defense zone stretched out into the international airspace, and demand that all aircraft notify Chinese authorities of their intention to fly through the airspace.

Obama’s stance may also lead to high-stakes clash in the region.

“These kinds of provocations create risks of miscalculation… we don’t accept the legitimacy of what China announced,” Carney said.

China’s government told aircraft that they should identify themselves as they pass through the large region in the area between China’s coast, Taiwan and a few small uninhabited islands at the southern end of the Japanese archipelago. The area has long been viewed as international airspace, despite their ownership by a Japan person and now by Japan’s government.

On Nov. 30, Obama’s government directed U.S. airlines to stay away from the airspace or else comply with China’s demands for pre-flight notification and in-flight identification.

The White House’s directive “in no way indicates the U.S. accepts .. the legitimacy of China’s requirements,” Carney said. The decision was “about the safety and security of [airline] passengers,” he said.

China’s declaration is part of the the country’s effort to expand its control over the waters and underwater oil resources that stretch south-east from China’s coast towards Singapore. For example, China is building up its long-range air forces and missile armory, its ocean-going navy, and even its ability to find Chinese ships that sank in the waters centuries ago.

But China’s claims clash with the long-existing territorial lines maintained by Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and Borneo.


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Neil Munro