TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday he would discuss China's expansion of its air defence zone with US Vice President Joe Biden in Tokyo to coordinate their stance after apparently contradictory responses.
China raised regional tensions with its declaration on November 23 of the zone, which covers islands in the East China Sea at the centre of a dispute between Beijing and Tokyo. It demands that all aircraft submit flight plans when traversing the area.
Tokyo has stopped Japanese airlines from submitting flight plans to Beijing, but Washington said Friday it generally expected US carriers to "operate consistent with" notification policies issued by foreign countries.
"We want to hold consultation with US Vice President Biden who will visit Japan this week and deal with the matter by coordinating closely between Japan and the United States," Abe said.
Biden is due to arrive late Monday for a 34-hour visit as part of a tour which will also take him to China and South Korea.
The US State Department statement was widely taken in Japan to mean Washington had effectively advised US airlines to comply with the Chinese demand.
But Abe and Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said Washington had not explicitly requested US carriers to submit flight plans to Beijing.
"We have confirmed it through diplomatic channels," Abe told reporters, according to Jiji Press news agency.
Onodera, speaking on public broadcaster NHK, said: "The US government is taking the same stance with Japan" over the air defence zone.
"The US side has rather been quicker than Japan in responding to this issue. It has issued a strong message," the defence chief said.
South Korea has told the country's airlines not to submit flight plans to China, the South's Yonhap news agency said Sunday, citing a government source.
The Chinese air defence identification zone (ADIZ) overlaps similar Japanese and South Korean zones.
China's announcement that it was extending the ADIZ over the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands, claimed by Beijing as the Diaoyus, was disregarded by several nations, and US B-52 bombers entered the area.
The Pentagon has indicated that American military forces would continue normal operations, despite China scrambling fighter jets to monitor US and Japanese aircraft in the zone.
Onodera also cited press reports that China might "make similar moves in the South China Sea", where Beijing is involved in territorial disputes with several countries.
"I think a sense of tension will run through countries within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations," he said. "The international community as a whole should not condone such unilateral approach."