The U.S. flights, which tested the Chinese zone for the first time
since it was declared over the weekend, raised questions about
Beijing's determination to enforce its requirement that foreign
aircraft identify themselves and accept Chinese instructions.
China's lack of any action suggested that it was merely playing out
a diplomatic game to establish ownership over the area rather than
provoke an international incident.
The flights followed days of angry rhetoric and accusations over
Beijing's move, designed to assert Chinese claims to a group of
uninhabited islands controlled by Japan.
The U.S. and Japan have said they don't acknowledge the zone, and
Taiwan and South Korea, both close to the U.S., also rejected it.
A Chinese Defense Ministry statement said the U.S. planes were
detected and monitored as they flew through the area for two hours
and 22 minutes. It said all aircraft flying through the zone would
be monitored and that "China has the capability to exercise
effective control over the relevant airspace."
Asked repeatedly about the incident at a regularly scheduled
briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said it had been
handled according to procedures laid out in the Saturday statement
but offered no specifics.
"Different situations will be dealt with according to that
statement," Qin said.
The U.S., which has hundreds of military aircraft based in the
region, described the flights as a training mission unrelated to
China's announcement of the zone. U.S. officials said the two
unarmed B-52 bombers took off from their home base in Guam around
midday and were in the zone that encompasses the disputed islands
for less than an hour before returning to their base, adding the
aircraft encountered no problems.
The bomber flights came after State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki
said China's move appeared to be an attempt to change the status quo
in the East China Sea.
"This will raise regional tensions and increase the risk of
miscalculation, confrontation and accidents," she told reporters.
Australia, meanwhile, said it called in the Chinese ambassador to
express concern about the sudden zone declaration and Philippines
Foreign Affairs Department spokesman Raul Hernandez as threatening
"The timing and the manner of China's announcement are unhelpful in
light of current regional tensions, and will not contribute to
regional stability," Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said
in a statement.
[to top of second column]
Beijing's move fits a pattern of putting teeth behind its
territorial claims and is seen as potentially leading to dangerous
encounters depending on how vigorously China enforces it — and how
cautious it is when intercepting aircraft from Japan, the U.S. and
Chinese reaction to the bomber flights was predictably angry, with
some recalling the 2001 collision between a Chinese fighter and a
U.S. surveillance plane in international airspace off China's
southeastern coast — the kind of accident some fear China's new
policy could make more likely. The Chinese pilot, Wang Wei, was
killed in the crash and the U.S. crew forced to make a landing on
China's Hainan island, where they were held for 10 days and
repeatedly interrogated before being released.
"Let's not repeat the humiliation of Wang Wei. Make good
preparations to counterattack," wrote Zheng Daojin, a reporter with
the official Xinhua News Agency on his Twitter-like Weibo microblog.
Businessman Li Pengliang said the island dispute had heightened
anti-Japanese sentiment, but doubted the chances of an open
"The public is outraged, but I still believe that the leaders in
power are sober minded. They will not act on impulse," Li said.
Still others criticized the government's handling of what they
termed a battle of psychological pressure and international public
"China is terrible at telling its side of the story. The silent one
is the loser so why don't they better explain our response to the
American bomber flight," wrote Hu Xijin, editor of the nationalist
tabloid Global Times, on his blog.
It wasn't clear whether Beijing had anticipated the forceful
response from Washington and others, or how well it is prepared to
back up its demands.
Chinese scholars, who often serve as ad-hoc government spokesmen,
criticized Tuesday's flights as a crude show of force and said
Beijing wasn't looking for a fight.
"It's not that China didn't want to enforce its demands, but how do
you expect China to react?" said Zhu Feng, an international security
expert at Peking University.
Press; CHRISTOPHER BODEEN]
Copyright 2013 The Associated
Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.