TOKYO – China's new maritime air defense zone is unenforceable, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday, in a continuing war of words over air space that includes the area above islands claimed by both.
Abe told a parliamentary session that China's declaration of an air defense identification zone alters the state of affairs in the East China Sea and escalates a tense situation.
"The measures by the Chinese side have no validity whatsoever on Japan, and we demand China revoke any measures that could infringe upon the freedom of flight in international airspace," Abe said during an Upper House session. "It can invite an unexpected occurrence and it is a very dangerous thing as well."
Abe said the measures one-sidedly impose rules set by the Chinese military on all flights in the zone, and violate the freedom to fly above open sea, a general principle under the international law.
Since taking office almost a year ago, Abe has been spearheading a move to step up Japan's defense capability, citing threats from China's growing maritime and military presence in the region. Japan has had a similar zone since the 1960s.
Earlier Monday, China's Foreign Ministry said it had complained to the United States over its "irresponsible remarks" about China's drawing up of the zone for the disputed islands, which are administered by Japan.
China's Defense Ministry also called Japan's objections to its East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone "absolutely groundless and unacceptable" and said it had made solemn representations to the Japanese Embassy in Beijing.
On Saturday, Beijing issued a map of the zone and a set of rules, which say all aircraft must notify Chinese authorities and are subject to emergency military measures if they do not identify themselves or obey Beijing's orders.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement Sunday that the zone's aim is to defend China's sovereignty and the security of its airspace and land. He said it is not aimed at any country and it does not affect freedom of overflight.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel have both said the U.S. is "deeply concerned" about China's unilateral action.
"This unilateral action constitutes an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea," Kerry said in a statement released Saturday. "Escalatory action will only increase tensions in the region and create risks of an incident."
Qin said China made solemn representations Sunday to U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke for the U.S. "to correct its mistakes and stop making irresponsible remarks on China."
Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said the ministry had complained to the U.S. Embassy's military attache on Sunday evening.
The U.S. doesn't take a position on who has sovereignty over the islands -- called Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese -- but recognizes they are under Japanese administration.
Along with a rise in its economic and military power in recent years, China has become more assertive over its maritime claims.