Japan and South Korea have admitted they have flown planes along an air corridor in defiance of China declaring it an air defence zone and demanding advance notification of any intended flights.
Washington has called China’s move a “destabilising attempt to alter the status quo in the region”.
But Tokyo is emphatic that it will not bow to Chinese pressure and end patrols at sea or in the air.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshide Suga told reporters: “We are carrying out surveillance activity as before. We have no plans to change what we are doing out of consideration to China.”
Beijing has rejected a call from Seoul to revoke its decision with the South Koreans saying the move has created military tension in the region. But there were signs that China’s stance is softening.
China’s defence ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said at a press conference: “An Air Defence Identification Zone is neither territorial airspace, nor a no-fly zone. It’s an airspace set up by a country outside its territorial airspace to allow time for early-warning and ensure national air defence. It does not mean an expansion of the territorial airspace.”
The United States earlier this week also defied the zone when two unarmed bombers flew over the islands. The US is carrying out a long-planned military exercise with Japan in the region.
The developments are expected to dominate US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Japan, China and South Korea next week.