WASHINGTON - Two US B-52 bombers flew over a disputed area of the East China Sea without informing Beijing, US officials said Tuesday, challenging China's bid to create an expanded "air defence zone."
The unarmed aircraft took off from Guam on Monday and the flight was previously scheduled as part of a routine exercise in the area, the defence officials said.
"Last night we conducted a training exercise that was long-planned. It involved two aircraft flying from Guam and returning to Guam," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren told reporters.
No flight plan was submitted beforehand to the Chinese and the mission went ahead "without incident," Warren said.
The two aircraft spent "less than an hour" in China's unilaterally-declared Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) and did not encounter Chinese planes, he said.
A defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed to AFP the two US planes were B-52 bombers.
China announced the expanded air defence zone amid a mounting territorial dispute with Japan over an island chain in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.
The area also includes waters claimed by Taiwan and South Korea, which also have both expressed their displeasure at Beijing's move.
Under the rules declared by China, aircraft are expected to provide a flight plan, clearly mark their nationality and maintain two-way radio communication to allow them to respond to identification inquiries from Chinese authorities.