MANILA, Philippines (AP) — China has a sovereign right to establish a maritime air defense zone over another region as it did in the East China Sea, the Chinese envoy to the Philippines said.
The United States and key Asian allies have not honored the East China Sea zone, which was announced Nov. 23 and is seen primarily as a bid to bolster China's claim over uninhabited Japanese-controlled islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. The Philippines is locked in another territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea.
When asked to comment about concerns that China might set up a similar zone over the South China Sea, Ambassador Ma Keqing said in a news conference late Monday that it was the Chinese government's right to decide "where and when to set up the new air identification zone."
She added she could not say at this time if China would do so. Ma said that the East China Sea zone's designation should not spark concerns. "This will not hinder any normal freedom of flights within this area if they've notified the Chinese authorities," Ma said.
The U.S. ambassador to Manila, Philip Goldberg, described China's move as dangerous. "We do not believe that this is a move intended to build confidence or, in any other way, improve the situation," Goldberg told reporters.
Instead, China's new zone "will create tension and the possibility of miscalculations and that's never good." While the U.S. has not recognized the Chinese imposition, it has advised its carriers to comply to be safe.
"We can't, with commercial aircraft, take chances, as I mentioned, of miscalculation, so we have recommended to our commercial airlines that they give such notification," Goldberg said. Philippine aviation official John Andrews said Tuesday Filipino carriers have been notified of China's air defense zone but says it is up to them whether to comply with Chinese requirements for passing aircraft to identify themselves and submit details of their flights.
The Philippines has said the zone infringes on the freedom to fly in international airspace and compromises the safety of civil aviation. China has said that all aircraft entering the zone of international waters between China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan must notify Chinese authorities beforehand and that it would take unspecified defensive measures against those that don't comply.
China has been locked over increasingly-tense disputes over potentially oil- and gas-rich territories in the South China Sea with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. While recent territorial spats between Beijing and Manila have particularly been antagonistic, China has extended help to the Philippines, which was devastated by a Nov. 8 typhoon that left more than 5,600 people dead and 1,700 others missing.