Tokyo should revoke its zone first, says Beijing

China has hit back at Japan and called for Tokyo to give up its air defence zone first if it wants Beijing to do so, as it upped the ante in the war of words against Japan and the United States.

Japan has no right to criticise China over its air zone, said a spokesman for China's Ministry of Defence, noting that Japan has had one since 1969.

"If (we) want to talk about revoking, then we would ask the Japanese to first revoke their Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ)," Ministry of Defence spokesman Yang Yujun said at a press conference on Thursday.

Elsewhere, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Qin Gang upbraided Japan and the US for being unreasonable in challenging China's new air rules.

Beijing announced on Saturday that it would set up an ADIZ in the East China Sea, which covers the Diaoyu/Senkaku isles claimed by China and Japan.

It also issued rules requiring foreign aircraft entering the area to give prior notification, among other conditions, or be subject to "emergency military measures".

In response, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday called for China's new air measures to be revoked.

On Tuesday, two American B-52 bombers flew into the Chinese zone in defiance of the rules.

On Thursday, Mr Qin told reporters: "We ask that the Japanese and the Americans seriously self-reflect, immediately correct their errors and stop unreasonable accusations against the Chinese, stop creating friction or actions and words that harm the region's stability."

China's rhetorical fightback follows public calls for a more robust response from Beijing and news that military planes from Japan and South Korea had entered its new air zone without prior notice.

Seoul said on Thursday it had sent a military jet into the Chinese zone on Tuesday on a regular surveillance mission over a submerged rock in an area claimed by South Korea and China. The Japanese Coast Guard said on Thursday that its planes flew into the zone.

Beijing said in response that it was fully aware of the flights.

Despite its stronger language, Beijing continued to sidestep questions on what it would do to enforce its new rules. A reporter asked whether there was a chance China might shoot down the planes of the two Japanese airlines instructed by Tokyo not to inform Beijing of their flight plans.

Mr Qin did not answer directly, but said the air zone was not targeted at commercial flights.

"We also hope airlines of the relevant countries can proactively comply and make our navigation safer and more orderly," he said. Airlines from many countries and regions have started to report to Beijing, and air traffic has been normal and safe since the new rules were announced, Mr Qin said.

So far, operations of commercial flights have been unaffected by China's move, said Mr Albert Tjoeng, Asia-Pacific spokesman for the International Air Transport Association. "We are trying to get more details from the Chinese authorities to clarify ongoing operational requirements."

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