Bi­den to raise U.S. con­cerns to China

Visit on heels of height­ened ten­sion

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY DAVE BOYER

As ten­sions rise in a stand­off with China over a dis­puted chain of is­lands, Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said Wed­nes­day that Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den will con­vey U.S. con­cerns to Chi­nese lead­ers dur­ing a trip that be­gins next week.

Mr. Bi­den will meet sep­a­rately with the lead­ers of China, South Korea and Ja­pan on the long-planned trip that be­gins Sun­day. But the visit is tak­ing on height­ened ex­pec­ta­tions af­ter China de­nounced a flight by two U.S. B-52 bombers Tues­day over is­lands in the East China Sea with­out first alert­ing Bei­jing.

The flight came just days af­ter China an­nounced an ex­panded air-de­fense zone around the un­in­hab­ited is­lands. Ja­pan is in a lon­grun­ning dis­pute with China over con­trol of the is­lands.

De­fense Sec­re­tary Chuck Hagel told his Ja­panese coun­ter­part in a phone call Wed­nes­day that China’s es­tab­lish­ment of the air zone “is a po­ten­tially desta­bi­liz­ing uni­lat­eral ac­tion de­signed to change the sta­tus quo in the re­gion, and raises the risk of mis­un­der­stand­ing and mis­cal­cu­la­tion,” a Pen­tagon spokesman said.

Mr. Hagel com­mended Ja­pan “for ex­er­cis­ing ap­pro­pri­ate re­straint” in re­sponse to China’s ac­tions. The de­fense sec­re­tary “reaf­firmed long­stand­ing U.S. pol­icy” that the U.S.-Ja­pan mu­tual de­fense treaty ap­plies to the dis­puted is­lands “and pledged to consult closely with Ja­pan on ef­forts to avoid un­in­tended in­ci­dents,” the Pen­tagon said in a state­ment.

U.S. Am­bas­sador to Ja­pan Caro­line Kennedy crit­i­cized China in her first speech in her new job, say­ing its ac­tion “only serves to in­crease ten­sions in the re­gion.”

“Uni­lat­eral ac­tions like those taken by China with their an­nounce­ment of an East China Sea Air De­fense Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Zone un­der­mine se­cu­rity and con­sti­tute an at­tempt to change the sta­tus quo in the East China Sea,” she said in Tokyo.

A se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity, said Mr. Bi­den “will have an op­por­tu­nity … to make clear to the Chi­nese lead­er­ship that we have con­cerns and that we have ques­tions.”

“The un­der­ly­ing point here is that the strains caused by a se­ries of ac­tions by China in its re­la­tions with its Asian neigh­bors is not a good thing,” the of­fi­cial said.

The two Asian pow­ers have a long dis­pute over the is­lands, which sit in the mid­dle of a seabed po­ten­tially rich with oil, gas and other min­eral de­posits.

The Chi­nese de­fense min­istry said Wed­nes­day that “China has the ca­pa­bil­ity to ex­er­cise ef­fec­tive con­trol” over the area.

China’s mil­i­tary an­nounced on its web­site early Wed­nes­day that its navy’s sole air­craft car­rier, the Liaon­ing, was head­ing to­ward the South China Sea. To get there, the air­craft car­rier group has to first go through the East China Sea.

Mr. Hagel that China’s cre­ation of the new air de­fense zone would “not in any way change how the United States con­ducts mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in the re­gion.”

Chi­nese mil­i­tary of­fi­cials have por­trayed the claim to the new zone as a de­fen­sive mea­sure to guard against “po­ten­tial air threats.”

“We’re talk­ing about in­ter­na­tional air space,” said the se­nior Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial. “We’re not talk­ing about over­flights of sov­er­eign ter­ri­tory … There is a need for China to clar­ify its in­ten­tions, to an­swer a num­ber of ques­tions that this move gen­er­ates, both as a civil avi­a­tion mat­ter, but also as a strate­gic mat­ter.”

In 2001, a Chi­nese fighter jet col­lided with a U.S. Navy plane mon­i­tor­ing China’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions over the South China Sea. The Chi­nese pi­lot was killed, and the U.S plane made an emer­gency land­ing on China’s Hainan is­land. China held the U.S. crew for 11 days un­til the U.S. ex­pressed re­gret for the death of the Chi­nese pi­lot.

Mr. Bi­den will travel first to Ja­pan to meet with Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe, who’s had fric­tion both with China and with South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Ge­un­hye, that na­tion’s first fe­male pres­i­dent. The vice pres­i­dent will par­tic­i­pate with Ms. Kennedy in a se­ries of events to high­light “the role of women in the Ja­panese econ­omy,” an ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said.

In China, Mr. Bi­den will meet with Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and other lead­ers for talks in­clud­ing the dis­puted airspace, and a range of global is­sues. Aides said Mr. Bi­den knows the Chi­nese leader bet­ter than al­most any other head of state.

The vice pres­i­dent will con­clude his trip in Seoul, where he’ll meet with Mrs. Park and Prime Min­is­ter Jung Hong-won. He’ll de­liver keynote re­marks at Yon­sei Univer­sity on the U.S.-Korea re­la­tion­ship and on U.S. pol­icy to­wards the Asia Pa­cific re­gion. Mr. Bi­den will re­turn to Wash­ing­ton on Dec. 8.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHOTOGRAPHS

Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den will visit China, Ja­pan and South Korea. His visit comes dur­ing a time of height­ened ten­sions be­tween the U.S. and China over Bei­jing’s claim to is­lands that Ja­pan con­tests and China’s re­cently ex­panded air-de­fense zone.

Sec­re­tary of De­fense Chuck Hagel said China’s cre­ation of an ex­panded air-de­fense zone would not change how the United States con­ducts its mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in the re­gion.

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