Two US Air Force B-52 bombers flew through China's self-declared 'air defense zone' on Nov. 26. (Roslan Rahman / AFP)
BEIJING — China “monitored” US B-52 bomber flights in its newly-declared air defense identification zone, the defense ministry said Wednesday.
The Pentagon said it did not comply with Beijing’s controversial demand for aircraft to file flight plans when traversing the East China Sea area that includes Japan-administered islands at the heart of a tense dispute between the two neighbors.
But in a statement China’s defense spokesman Geng Yansheng said: “The Chinese military monitored the entire process, carried out identification in a timely manner, and ascertained the type of US aircraft.
“China is capable of exercising effective control over this airspace,” Geng added.
The statement, China’s first official response to the US action, appeared to be an effort to avoid confrontation while also asserting its authority.
Under the rules declared by China, aircraft are instructed to provide a flight plan, clearly mark their nationality and maintain two-way radio communication to allow them to respond to identification queries from Chinese authorities.
Those that do not comply can face “defensive emergency measures,” Beijing says.
But Pentagon officials said the US views the area as international air space and American military aircraft would operate in the zone as before, without submitting flight plans in advance.
The two giant long-range B-52s flew over the disputed zone without informing Beijing, sending a clear warning that Washington would push back against what it considers Beijing’s aggressive stance in the region.
The flight was also a signal of US support for Japan, with which it has a security pact.
The bombers — which were unarmed — took off unarmed from Guam on Monday on a scheduled flight in what US defense officials insisted was a routine exercise.