UNDER pressure from the government, Japan's two biggest airlines have stopped providing flight plans for planes passing through China's new air defence zone over the East China Sea.
Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways (ANA), citing concerns about passenger safety, had said they would comply with new rules after Beijing announced the setting up of the Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) last Saturday.
But on Monday, Transport Minister Akihiro Ota urged the airlines to ignore the ADIZ, and ministry officials kept up the pressure via the civil aviation authorities.
On Wednesday, both airlines said they stopped sending flight information to the Chinese authorities.
Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera, keeping up Japan's challenge of the validity of China's ADIZ, declared yesterday that Japanese military jets would also ignore Chinese demands.
"China's creation (of the ADIZ) is a one-sided act... that cannot be recognised," he told reporters.
The new ADIZ overlaps Japan's own zone and includes a chain of disputed islands in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.
Bilateral tensions ratcheted up after Tokyo bought three of the disputed islands from their Japanese owner last year, effectively nationalising the islands.
Since then, both sides have deployed naval vessels to the area and Japan has scrambled military jets in response to the presence of Chinese military aircraft near the islands.
The new ADIZ has drawn reactions from other countries. Australia summoned the Chinese ambassador on Monday to express its concern over the zone, and called China's move "unhelpful".