US airlines advised to comply with China defense zone

As tensions flare over Beijing’s newly declared air defense zone, U.S. airlines are being advised by the U.S. government to comply with China’s demand that it be told of any flights passing through the disputed area.

China announced last week that all aircraft entering the zone over the East China Sea, located 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.

While the United States said it expected its carriers to operate in line with notices issued to airmen by foreign countries, the decision did “not indicate U.S. government acceptance of China’s requirements,” Reuters reported.

Obama administration officials said the decision was made out of an abundance of caution to avoid any possible miscommunications, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Neighboring countries and the U.S. have said that they will not honor the new zone. Chinese defense ministry said fighter jets identified and monitored the two U.S. reconnaissance aircraft and a mix of 10 Japanese early warning, reconnaissance and fighter planes during their flights through the zone early Friday.

Japan’s two major airlines agreed with Japanese government officials to continue flying through the zone without notifying China, Reuters reported.

Vice President Joe Biden is due to arrive in Tokyo Monday on a week long trip to Asia, and has said he would raise the issue directly with Chinese leaders.

The U.S. has tried to stay out of such territorial disputes, but treaty obligations to Japan may force U.S. involvement.

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The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.