Biden warns China against escalating air zone tensions
By Felicia Sonmez ,AFP
December 6, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
BEIJING -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden warned China on Thursday against escalating a dispute over an East China Sea air zone, adding that regional peace and stability were in Beijing's interests.
Biden also criticized China's tightening of controls on foreign journalists, stressing that the world's second-largest economy could become more prosperous with American values such as human rights and freedom of speech.
China's controversial move last month to declare an “air defense identification zone” (ADIZ) — which includes islands disputed with Japan — has “caused significant apprehension in the region,” Biden told a group of 60 American business leaders Thursday morning.
“As China's economy grows, its stake in regional peace and stability will continue to grow as well, because it has so much more to lose,” he added.
“That's why China will bear increasing responsibility to contribute positively to peace and security.”
Biden reiterated in his meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping that the U.S. does not recognize China's newly declared air zone, a senior White House official told reporters in Beijing late Wednesday.
China says all aircraft within it must obey its instructions or risk unspecified “defensive emergency measures.”
The move provoked anger in the region and prompted the U.S., Japan and South Korea all to defy Beijing by flying military and paramilitary aircraft — including two B-52 bombers in Washington's case — into the newly declared zone.
The U.S. official, who spoke anonymously in order to discuss Biden's talks, added that it is now up to Beijing to take action “to avoid the risk of mistake, miscalculation, accident or escalation.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei, meanwhile, said Thursday that the U.S. “should respect” that the zone “is in line with international laws and conventions.”
Beijing sees Tokyo as the aggressor in the dispute over the islands, which are controlled by Japan but claimed by China.
Biden went on to South Korea late Thursday for the final leg of his three-country trip before returning to Washington.
Despite the heightened nationalistic feelings and rhetoric surrounding the issue — which hinges on a decades-old dispute over the Tokyo-controlled island group — experts say that any outbreak of violence remains unlikely, as the major trade relationship between the two Asian powers is a strong incentive for both sides to avoid conflict.