The Communist Chinese government warned an American bomber flying near South Korea, in response to provocative actions and nuclear threats by North Korea, to leave after flying in disputed airspace claimed by China.
Chinese air traffic controllers suggested the pilots of the Air Force B1-B Lancer bomber were operating in their airspace and warned them to leave, according to defense officials.
The Guam-based bomber was approximately 70 miles off the South Korean island of Jeju conducting drills with the Japanese and South Korean militaries in response to repeated missile tests and nuclear threats by North Korea.
“The pilots responded by saying that they were conducting routine operations in international airspace and did not deviate from their flight path,” according to Major Phil Ventura, spokesman for US Pacific Air Forces.
Chinese officials claimed the bomber entered a Chinese-declared Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, which overlaps with airspace claimed by Japan and South Korea as well as the Senkaku Islands (occupied by Japan, claimed by China as the Diaoyu Islands).
China requires all aircraft entering the ADIZ to first identify themselves to Chinese air traffic controllers; Japan, South Korea, and the United States do not recognize the legitimacy of the claim.
“Pacific Air Forces … did not recognize the Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) when it was announced in November of 2013, and does not recognize it today,” Ventura said. “The ADIZ has not changed our operations.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry urged the United States to “respect its territorial sovereignty.”
“The United States has its own ADIZs. I think if this matter is true, they should respect China’s relevant ADIZ rights, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
“I hope that in this region all countries’ actions consider the security concerns of relevant countries and be beneficial for mutual trust, peace and stability between countries.”
Japan recently deployed a helicopter carrier, its largest surface vessel since World War II-era aircraft carriers, to the South China Sea in response to China’s continued construction and militarization of artificial islands in territory disputed by nearly six other countries.