Japan must see air zone is about safety: experts

Updated: 2013-11-30 01:09

By Pu Zhendong (China Daily)

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Beijing officials urge Tokyo to open up dialogue to forge bilateral agreement

Negotiations should take place between Beijing and Tokyo to forge a mechanism to manage the crisis over the overlapping air defense identification zones in the East China Sea, given that China's move to establish its zone is irrevocable, experts said.

The comments resonated with a senior Chinese diplomat, who on Wednesday called for a bilateral agreement to prevent a military aircraft accident while also justifying the legitimacy of China's move.

Tang Jiaxuan, head of the China-Japan Friendship Association, said that as many as 20 other countries already have such zones during a meeting in Beijing with former and current Japanese lawmakers, Japan's Kyodo News Agency said.

Referring to the ongoing negotiations of the two nations on a mechanism for maritime safety, Tang said that "it is also necessary to have crisis management for air. We should also have talks on air".

Japanese delegates included former foreign minister Koichiro Gemba and Taku Yamasaki, former vice-president of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party.

Chinese observers said that Tokyo, instead of using double standards and protesting in vain, should face facts and make maintaining regional stability its priority.

Zhang Junshe, an expert with the Chinese navy, said it would help to mitigate any risk of miscalculation if the two sides could sit down and discuss air safety.

"It depends on whether Tokyo will act cooperatively or if it remains confrontational now that China's designation of the zone is firm and final."

Managing differences

Chai Lidan, a specialist in air defense, said it is common international practice that two countries having controversial air defense zones negotiate a pact but that Japan has displayed a lack of responsibility.

"By shutting the door on communication, Japan once again puts the security of its citizens at stake, asking Japanese airlines not to report flight information to Chinese authorities as required," she added.

On the issue of the overlapping air defense zones, China has called on the two sides to strengthen communication and jointly safeguard air safety, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at Friday's news conference.

"It has been our consistent stance that we seek effective ways of managing differences through dialogue. The current problem is that Japan has avoided conducting substantial negotiations with China," Qin said.

"We hope Japan will make pragmatic efforts instead of merely stopping with words," he said.

On Friday, China sent fighter planes to investigate flights by a dozen US and Japanese planes in the new air defense zone, National Defense Ministry spokesman Shen Jinke said.

The Chinese fighter jets identified and monitored the two US and 10 Japanese aircraft during their flights through the zone, he added.

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that Tokyo "will respond firmly" to China's setting new flight rules, "but in a calm manner".

Japan "will cooperate with allied countries, neighboring countries and international organizations," Abe was quoted as saying by ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Takeshi Iwaya.

Iwaya also handed Abe the party's written resolution criticizing China and urging Beijing to immediately withdraw the new measure in question.

Expressing strong displeasure at Japan's criticism of the new zone, Tang said, "Japan's air defense identification zone is located very close to China's territorial waters" so there is no reason for Tokyo to complain.

"There are no global standards on the regulations of the identification zone, so there is not much difference between China's designation and that of Japan's," said Tang, who is also a former foreign minister.

In a related development, Japan plans to make the issue of flight safety in international airspace with Southeast Asian countries the main topic for the Japan-ASEAN summit set to take place next month in Tokyo, Kyodo reported.

At the summit, Abe is expected to seek support by persuading participants to take a united stance toward China. Some ASEAN counties have maritime disputes with China in the South China Sea, where there is a possibility that China may draw up a similar zone, the report said.

Qin, the spokesman, slammed Abe's support-seeking behaviors as "ill-intentioned and trouble-stirring".

"I would like Japan to tell other countries whether it has an air defense zone and whether it consulted with other countries when it designated the zone and later repeatedly expanded its range," Qin said.