US Military to Continue Flights in Air Defense Zone Claimed by China

U.S. military aircraft will not change how they conduct operations in the East China Sea despite China's announcement that it has established an air defense zone over those waters, Pentagon officials said today.

U.S. officials have said they are "deeply concerned" about China's move and labeled it destabilizing for the region.

China's Defense Ministry announced on Saturday the establishment of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the waters of the East China Sea to protect against "potential air threats." T he zone stretches from South Korea to Taiwan and includes the disputed Senkaku Islands, which are administered by Japan, but which China claims as its territory and calls the Diaoyu Islands.

The ministry said in a statement that it would require aircraft entering the zone to provide flight plans to Chinese authorities, display logos clearly, maintain radio contact with them and keep its transponders on while transiting the area.

"China's armed forces will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond to aircraft that do not cooperate in the identification or refuse to follow the instructions, " according to the statement. The ministry clarified later that civilian aircraft would not be affected by the rules established for the ADIZ.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said today that China's announcement will not change how the U.S. military operates over what is considered international waters and airspace.

"The U.S. military will continue conducting flight operations in the region, including with our allies and partners, and will not in any way change how we conduct our operations as a result of this new policy," Warren told reporters.

"When we fly into this ADIZ we will not register a flight plan, we will not identify our transponder, our radio frequency and logo," Warren said.

Warren did not have details about the last time U.S. military aircraft flew through the outlined area or when they will again.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel both issued statements on Saturday expressing American concerns about China's action.

Both Kerry and Hagel said they were "deeply concerned" by the announcement, which they said would disrupt the status quo with China's neighbors.

Hagel labeled it "destabilizing" and Kerry said it could create "risks of an incident."

"This unilateral action constitutes an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea," Kerry said.

In his statement Hagel reaffirmed the United States' commitment to the mutual defense treaty with Japan and said it considered the Senkaku Islands to fall under that treaty.

At a press briefing today in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin said the Chinese Foreign and Defense Ministries had "respectively lodged solemn representations with the U.S., calling on the U.S. to immediately correct mistakes and stop making irresponsible accusations against China."

Japan operates its own ADIZ that extends 200 miles from its territory. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said today that China's establishment of an ADIZ was "very dangerous" and could lead to unintended consequences.

Qin said the Chinese Foreign Ministry had summoned Japanese ambassador Masato Kitera to lodge a "solemn protest against Japan's groundless accusation against China's establishment of the East China Sea ADIZ." He criticized Japan for making what he called " irresponsible remarks" about the zone and urged it to "immediately correct its mistakes."

Japan also called in China's ambassador to Japan to lodge a protest of their own.