Biden calls for trust with China amid airspace dispute

Biden calls for trust with China amid airspace dispute
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) waves as he walks out of Air Force Two with his granddaughter Finnegan Biden and son Hunter Biden at the airport in Beijing December 4, 2013.

BEIJING - US Vice President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that relations between Washington and Beijing had to be based on trust, amid a dispute over a new Chinese air defence zone which has rattled nerves regionally.

Beijing's decision to declare an air defence identification zone in an area that includes disputed islands has triggered protests from the United States, Japan and South Korea and dominated Biden's talks in Tokyo on Tuesday.

The United States has made clear it will stand by treaty obligations that require it to defend the Japanese-controlled islands, but it is also reluctant to get dragged into any military clash between rivals Japan and China.

Biden told Chinese President Xi Jinping he believed Xi was a candid and constructive person.

"In developing this new relationship, both qualities are sorely needed," Biden said during a meeting in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

"Candor generates trust. Trust is the basis on which real change, constructive change, is made."

Xi said the international situation and regional landscape were "undergoing profound and complex changes".

"Regional issues keep cropping up and there are more pronounced global challenges such as climate change and energy security. The world is not tranquil," he added.

Neither made any mention of the air defence zone in remarks before reporters. Biden flies to Seoul on Thursday.

As Biden arrived, the official English-language China Daily, said in a strongly worded editorial that he "should not expect any substantial headway if he comes simply to repeat his government's previous erroneous and one-sided remarks".

"If the US is truly committed to lowering tensions in the region, it must first stop acquiescing to Tokyo's dangerous brinkmanship. It must stop emboldening belligerent Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to constantly push the envelope of Japan's encroachments and provocations."

All aircraft have to report flight plans to Chinese authorities, maintain radio contact and reply promptly to identification inquiries under the zone's rules.

US, Japanese and South Korean military aircraft have breached the zone without informing Beijing since it was announced on November 23. Japanese and South Korean commercial carriers have also been told by their governments to ignore the rules.

China has repeatedly said the zone was designed to reduce the risk of misunderstandings, and stressed that since it was set up there had been no issues with freedom of flight for civilian airlines.

The Defence Ministry on Tuesday slammed what it said were "distortions" and "mud throwing" over the zone and China's intentions.

"It is not aimed at any specific country or target, and it certainly does not constitute a threat towards any country or region," ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said in a statement.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said 55 airlines from 19 countries were cooperating with China's request to report flight plans and identify themselves in the zone.

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