Beijing's decision to declare an air defense identification zone
in an area that includes disputed islands has triggered protests
from the United States, Japan and South Korea, and dominated Biden's
talks in Tokyo on Tuesday.
The United States has made clear it will stand by treaty obligations
that require it to defend the Japanese-controlled islands, but it is
also reluctant to get dragged into any military clash between rivals
Japan and China.
Biden told Chinese President Xi Jinping he believed Xi was a candid
and constructive person.
"In developing this new relationship, both qualities are sorely
needed," Biden said during a meeting in Beijing's Great Hall of the
"Candor generates trust. Trust is the basis on which real change,
constructive change, is made."
Xi said the international situation and regional landscape were
"undergoing profound and complex changes".
"Regional issues keep cropping up and there are more pronounced
global challenges such as climate change and energy security. The
world is not tranquil," he added.
Neither made any mention of the air defense zone in remarks before
reporters. Biden flies to Seoul on Thursday.
As Biden arrived, the official English-language China Daily said in
a strongly worded editorial that he "should not expect any
substantial headway if he comes simply to repeat his government's
previous erroneous and one-sided remarks".
"If the U.S. is truly committed to lowering tensions in the region,
it must first stop acquiescing to Tokyo's dangerous brinkmanship. It
must stop emboldening belligerent Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
to constantly push the envelope of Japan's encroachments and
Under the zone's rules, all aircraft have to report flight plans to
Chinese authorities, maintain radio contact and reply promptly to
U.S., Japanese and South Korean military aircraft have breached the
zone without informing Beijing since it was announced on November
Japanese and South Korean commercial carriers have been told by
their governments to ignore the rules. Three U.S. airlines, acting
on government advice, are notifying China of plans to transit the
China has repeatedly said the zone was designed to reduce the risk
of misunderstandings, and stressed that since it was set up there
had been no issues with freedom of flight for civilian airlines.
The Defence Ministry on Tuesday slammed what it said were
"distortions" and "mud throwing" over the zone and China's
"It is not aimed at any specific country or target, and it certainly
does not constitute a threat towards any country or region,"
ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said in a statement.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said 55 airlines from 19
countries were cooperating with China's request to report flight
plans and identify themselves in the zone.
Hong added that China was "willing to maintain dialogue and
communication on relevant technical issues with Japan on the basis
of equality and mutual respect". He did not elaborate.
[to top of second column]
Beijing's move has added to regional nerves about China's strategic
intentions as it presses territorial claims in the South China Sea
and ramps up an ambitious military modernization program.
Wang Dong, an associate professor of international relations at
Peking University, said China's restraint following flights by U.S.,
Japanese and South Korean military aircraft showed China was serious
when it said the zone was defensive.
"However, it would have been very helpful if China had presented a
coherent story and a coherent case on the zone from the very
beginning, instead of waiting," Wang said.
In Tokyo, Biden called on Japan and China to find ways to reduce
tensions, repeating that Washington was "deeply concerned" by the
announcement of the zone.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel echoed that sentiment on
Wednesday, telling reporters at the Pentagon: "It's important for
China, Japan, South Korea, all the nations in this area to stay calm
"These are combustible issues," Hagel said.
Still, he criticized China for declaring the defense zone "so
unilaterally and so immediately" without any international
"That's not a wise course of action to take for any country," Hagel
White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday that China's
decision was a provocative attempt to change the status quo in the
East China Sea.
The China Daily said it was obvious Washington had taken Tokyo's
side in the dispute.
"Biden needs to be reminded that Japan holds the key to peacefully
solving the East China Sea dispute, because it is the Abe
administration's recalcitrant denial of the existence of a dispute
that has prevented Beijing and Tokyo from conducting meaningful
communication and crisis control," it said.
China wants Japan first to acknowledge that a formal dispute over
sovereignty exists, experts say, a step that Tokyo has rejected for
fear it would undermine its claim over the islands, known as the
Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.
"Again, our timely visitor needs to be told: It is Japan that has
unilaterally changed the status quo ... China is just responding to
(Additional reporting by Megha Rajagopalan and John Ruwitch in
Shanghai and Steve Holland and Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing
by Dean Yates, Nick Macfie, Sonya Hepinstall and Mohammad Zargham)