China rejects Australian criticism of new air zone

China rejects Australian criticism of new air zone
File photo of a B-52 Stratofortress

BEIJING - China Wednesday dismissed Australian criticism of its newly-declared air defence identification zone as "completely mistaken" and raised the possibility of damaged relations between the two trading partners.

Australia on Tuesday announced it had summoned Beijing's ambassador to voice opposition to the zone over the East China Sea, which includes Japan-administered islands at the heart of a tense dispute between the two neighbours.

"Australia's irresponsible statements on the East Sea air defence identification zone are completely mistaken, China cannot accept them," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement posted online.

He said that China had "expressed its strong dissatisfaction" and called on Australia to "immediately correct its mistake, so as to avoid damaging China-Australia relations".

China's declaration has sharply raised tensions in the region and Japan and the US have refused to recognise it.

When two US B-52s bombers flew into it without complying with Beijing's rules, China took no action.

Australia is not seen as a major player in east Asian territorial disputes.

China is its biggest trading partner and newly-elected Prime Minister Tony Abbott has pushed for deeper ties with the Asian giant.

But Washington remains Canberra's key ally, and last month Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the new government intended to keep Japan as its "best friend" in Asia, as it works on relations with China.

She said Tuesday: "The timing and the manner of China's announcement are unhelpful in light of current regional tensions, and will not contribute to regional stability."

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