BAGHDAD — The zone comes an awkward time. Although Beijing's ties with Tokyo are at rock bottom, it was building good will and mutual trust with Washington following a pair of successful meetings between President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping. However, the zone feud now threatens to overshadow both the visit by Vice President Joe Biden to Beijing next week and one by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop expected before the end of the year.
China's defense and foreign ministries offered no additional clarification Thursday as to why Beijing failed to respond to the U.S. Air Force flights. Alliance partners the U.S. and J—an together have hundreds of military aircraft in the immediate vicinity.
China on Saturday issued a list of requirements for all foreign aircraft passing through the area, regardless of whether they were headed into Chinese airspace, and said its armed forces would adopt "defensive emergency measures" against aircraft that don't comply.
Beijing said the notifications are needed to help maintain air safety in the zone. However, the fact that China said it had identified and monitored the two U.S. bombers during their Tuesday flight seems to discredit that justification for the zone, said Rory Medcalf, director of the international security program at Australia's Lowy Institute
"This suggests the zone is principally a political move," Medcalf said. "It signals a kind of creeping extension of authority."
Along with concerns about confrontations or accidents involving Chinese fighters and foreign aircraft, the zone's establishment fuels fears of further aggressive moves to assert China's territorial claims ‚— especially in the hotly disputed South China Sea, which Beijing says belongs entirely to it.
Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun confirmed those concerns on Saturday by saying China would establish additional air defense identification zones "at an —propriate time."