Posts Tagged ‘sea’

NATO Military Chief Gen. Philip Breedlove Readies Response to Russian Moves

April 2, 2014


Gen. Philip Breedlove attends a news conference at the end of the 170th NATO Chiefs of Defense meeting at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels on Jan. 23. European Pressphoto Agency

Russia Calls Alliance’s Decision to Suspend Cooperation a Throwback to Cold War

By Naftali Bendavid
The Wall Street Journal

Russia’s foreign ministry Wednesday said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s suspension of civilian and military cooperation over the annexation of Crimea was a throwback to the Cold War that will be just as detrimental to the Western alliance as it is to Russia.

Meanwhile, the top military commander of NATO said he will submit a “reassurance package” to NATO representatives by April 15 aimed at enhancing the alliance’s response to Russia’s recent aggressive positioning.

In an interview, Gen. Philip Breedlove also said the Russian forces massed on Ukraine’s border could potentially accomplish a major incursion into eastern or southern Ukraine in three to five days. He characterized the 40,000 Russian troops as “a very large and very capable and very ready force,” adding that the situation is “very concerning.”

On Tuesday, NATO foreign ministers said they were suspending “all practical civilian and military cooperation” with Russia, which could affect Syria and counter-piracy operations. The officials said cooperation in Afghanistan would continue.

Russia said the suspension would be harmful. “It isn’t hard to imagine who will win from the rolling back of joint Russia-NATO collaboration to counter modern threats and challenges to global and European security, particularly the fight against terrorism, piracy, and natural and man-made disasters,” ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said. “That would definitely not be Russia or NATO member countries.”

NATO foreign ministers also directed Gen. Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, to come up with a plan that could include deploying forces and equipment in Eastern Europe, beefing up military exercises and increasing the readiness of NATO’s rapid-response force.

NATO officials are concerned by the Russian deployment at the border with Ukraine in part because it includes equipment that could support a major incursion, such as mechanized infantry, armored units, attack helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, special forces and logistics.

Some NATO members closest to Russia have also made it clear they would welcome a higher-visibility NATO presence on their soil.

Mr. Breedlove said he would give NATO representatives a list of options, but would also submit his specific recommendations as to which ones to choose. The options would cover land, sea and air, he said, as well as the northern, central and southern sections of Russia’s western border.

“This new paradigm, and these actions by Russia, clearly should cause us to rethink our positioning and posturing of NATO forces,” Gen. Breedlove said.

Alexander Grushko, Russia’s envoy to NATO, told the Interfax news agency that allegations that his country poses a threat to NATO countries “are absolutely groundless and far-fetched.”

“The additional measures announced [by NATO] and aimed at the so-called protection of the Eastern European members are absolutely unfounded,” he was quoted as saying.

Write to Naftali Bendavid at


Russia and Ukraine: Fearful about a threat from Russia, NATO foreign ministers draw up plans to reinforce NATO members in eastern Europe

April 2, 2014

BRUSSELS Wed Apr 2, 2014

NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) U.S. Air Force General Philip Mark Breedlove attends the Opening Remarks of the NATO Military Committee Conference in Budapest, September 14, 2013. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) U.S. Air Force General Philip Mark Breedlove attends the Opening Remarks of the NATO Military Committee Conference in Budapest, September 14, 2013.  Credit: Reuters/Bernadett Szabo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Russia has massed all the forces it needs on Ukraine’s border if it were to decide to carry out an “incursion” into the country and it could achieve its objective in three to five days, NATO’s top military commander said on Wednesday.

Calling the situation “incredibly concerning”, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, said NATO had spotted signs of movement by a very small part of the Russian force overnight but had no indication that it was returning to barracks.

Russia’s seizure and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region has caused the deepest crisis in East-West relations since the Cold War, leading the United States and Europe to impose sanctions on Moscow. They have said they will strengthen those sanctions if Russia moves beyond Crimea into east Ukraine.

NATO military chiefs are concerned that the Russian force on the Ukrainian border, which they estimate stands at 40,000 soldiers, could pose a threat to eastern and southern Ukraine.

“This is a very large and very capable and very ready force,” Breedlove said in an interview with Reuters and The Wall Street Journal.

FILE - A Russian flag is seen behind a Russian army vehicle.

A Russian flag is seen behind a Russian army vehicle.

The Russian force has aircraft and helicopter support as well as field hospitals and electronic warfare capabilities.

“The entire suite that would be required to successfully have an incursion into Ukraine should the decision be made,” Breedlove said. “We think it is ready to go and we think it could accomplish its objectives in between 3 and 5 days if directed to make the actions.”

He said Russia could have several potential objectives, including an incursion into southern Ukraine to establish a land corridor to Crimea, pushing beyond Crimea to Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odessa or even threatening to connect to Transdniestria, the mainly Russian-speaking, separatist region of Moldova that lies to the west of Ukraine.

Russia also has forces to the north and northeast of Ukraine that could enter eastern Ukraine if Moscow ordered them to do so, Breedlove said. Any such actions would have far-reaching implications for NATO, a military alliance of 28 nations that has been the core of European defense for more than 60 years.

“We are going to have to look at how our alliance now is prepared for a different paradigm, a different rule set… We will need to rethink our force posture, our force positioning, our force provisioning, readiness, etc,” Breedlove said.

NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels this week suspended all practical cooperation with Russia in protest at its actions in Crimea and asked military commanders to draw up plans to reinforce NATO members in eastern Europe that are fearful about a threat from Russia.

Alliance foreign ministers are seen during a NATO-Ukraine commission meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels April 1, 2014.

Alliance foreign ministers are seen during a NATO-Ukraine commission meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels April 1, 2014.

Breedlove said the ministers had asked him to draw up by April 15 a package of measures that would include reinforcements by land, air and sea.

“We will work on air, land and sea ‘reassurances’ and we will look to position those ‘reassurances’ across the breadth of our exposure: north, centre, and south,” he said.

(Reporting by Adrian Croft; editing by Luke Baker)

Related News


Japan slams China’s Xi on Nanjing remarks

March 31, 2014


China's President Xi Jinping waves to media following a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after an agreement signing, at the Chancellery in Berlin March 28, 2014. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

China’s President Xi Jinping waves to media following a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after an agreement signing, at the Chancellery in Berlin March 28, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

Japan has berated China’s President Xi Jinping over remarks made in Berlin about Japan’s wartime atrocities against Chinese.

Tokyo has criticised Chinese President Xi Jinping for making remarks during a trip to Germany about Japan’s wartime atrocities, adding that the government had lodged a protest.

At a think tank forum Friday in Berlin, Xi criticised Japan’s wartime atrocities, saying the Japanese military killed more than 300,000 people in Nanjing in 1937 when it occupied the Chinese city, Jiji Press and Kyodo News reported.

Xi also said more than 35 million Chinese people were killed or injured as Japan waged a war of aggression stemming from its militarism, Kyodo said.

“It is extremely unproductive that a Chinese leader makes such remarks about Japanese history in a third country,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Sunday.

He also said Japan’s Foreign Ministry has lodged a protest with the Chinese government on Saturday.

History bears heavy on the Japan-China relationship, most weightily in Nanjing.

Japan invaded China in the 1930s and the two countries fought a full-scale war from 1937 to 1945.

China says more than 300,000 people were slaughtered by Japanese troops in a six-week killing spree in the then capital Nanjing, which began on December 13, 1937.

Though some foreign academics put the number of deaths much lower, no respected mainstream historians dispute that a massacre took place.

Japan, which was occupied after its defeat and became a vibrant liberal democracy, has issued apologies for its wartime conduct in Asia.

But frequent statements by conservative politicians and public figures seemingly backstepping from them or calling into question issues of historical fact have increased suspicion of the country’s motives.

Beijing and Tokyo are also locked in a row also over ownership of a group of small uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

On Friday, China berated Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for reportedly drawing an analogy between the Crimea crisis and a row between Beijing and Tokyo over the disputed islands.


Chinese Shows Military Budget, Says It Will Respond With Military Might Toward Any Threat To China’s Sovereignty

March 4, 2014

BEIJING (AP) — China’s military is prepared to respond to all threats to the country’s sovereignty, a government spokeswoman said Tuesday, ahead of the expected announcement of another big bump in defense spending.

Legislative spokeswoman Fu Ying said China supports resolving disputes through negotiations and its 2.3 million-member People’s Liberation Army — the world’s largest — is for defensive purposes only.

However, Fu warned other nations not to test China’s resolve.

“But if some countries wish to provoke or wish to damage … regional peace and the regional order, then we must make a response, and an effective response at that,” Fu told a wide-ranging news conference on the eve of the legislature’s annual session.

“The point of this response, is to, on the one hand, maintain China’s territory and sovereignty, and on the other hand to maintain the regional order and peace,” Fu said.

Other countries should take China’s sovereignty claims seriously if they truly care about regional peace and security, she said, singling out the United States by name.

Her remarks came amid festering disputes between China and its neighbors over the control of islands and sea lanes in surrounding oceans. There has been a sharp escalation of tensions with Japan in the past 18 months over control of a string of tiny uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

China is to announce its latest defense budget on Wednesday. Spending on the armed forces rose 10.7 percent last year to 720 billion yuan ($114 billion), the most for any nation apart from the U.S.



This is the most important area in the East China Sea where disputes over islands involve China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. Large oil deposits are nearby.

This chart shows the Air Defense Identification Zone or ADIZ declared by China on Saturday, November 23, 2013.

Above: China says it has sovereignty over all inside the “Nine Dash Line” as seen here.

Map of South China Sea

China has claimed much of the South China Sea for itself —  claims that have upset many in the region, especially Vietnam and the Philippines. A huge wealth of untapped oil is believed to be below the sea here.

The chart below shows the area declared by China on 1 January 2014 as “an area under China’s jurisdiction.” China says “foreign fishing vessels” can only enter and work in this area with prior approval from China. Vietnam, the Philippines and others have said they will not comply with China’s law.

South Korea, U.S. Military Exercise Begins on Land, Sea and Air

February 24, 2014


File photo: US marines participate in a US-South Korea joint landing operation drill in Pohang, about 370 km (230 miles) southeast of Seoul, 26 April 2013 .
The military exercises involve air, ground and naval drills


Joint military drills between South Korea and the US have begun, amid rare family reunions between North and South Korean relatives separated for decades.

The annual military exercises will last until 18 April.

They will involve Key Resolve, a computer-based simulation, and Foal Eagle, which involves air, ground and naval drills.

Pyongyang is opposed to the drills and had previously threatened to cancel the reunions if the exercises went ahead.

The military drills will involve more than 12,500 US troops.

Apparent thaw

The US and South Korea describe the annual drills as defensive in nature, but Pyongyang has described them as “exercises of war”.

Last year, the exercises led to a prolonged surge in tensions, with North Korea threatening pre-emptive nuclear strikes and attacks on South Korean and US targets.

The rhetoric this year has so far been relatively mild, but the drills are scheduled to last until April, and many here see them as the toughest test yet of whether ties between the two Koreas are warming, the BBC’s Lucy Williamson in Seoul reports.

Speaking on Monday, South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said: “As of now, there are no unusual movements from North Korea. We will only take action against North Korea if it makes provocations or denunciations”.

Also on Monday, around 360 South Koreans met their North Korean relatives for the first time since the 1950-1953 Korean War, at a family reunion event in North Korea’s Mount Kumgang resort.

North Korean Kim Tae Un (C), 78, and her South Korean sisters Kim Sa-bun (L) and Kim Young-sun cry as they hug each other during their family reunion at the Mount Kumgang resort in North Korea, 23 February 2014 .
Hundreds of North and South Korean relatives met for the first time in decades at the family reunion events

They were the second set of relatives chosen to attend the reunions, which come amid an apparent thaw in inter-Korean ties.

Many people were separated from their relatives by the division of the Korean peninsula after the Korean War.

Pyongyang has been accused of using the family reunions, which are highly emotional events, as a bargaining chip.

North Korea has in the past cancelled the reunions after the South took actions it opposed – most recently in September.

In 2010, the programme was suspended after the North’s shelling of a South Korean border island.

Meanwhile, South Korea also offered to assist the North with tackling an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

North Korean state media said that thousands of pigs had been affected by the disease.

South Korea, which has also been hit by outbreaks before, has offered to send aid, including medical goods and vaccines, officials said.

Japan-China war of words goes ballistic in Davos

January 24, 2014

China and Japan at Davos


Photo: AP

Anybody who thinks China’s dispute with Japan is subject to rational calculation should have heard the astonishing outburst a few minutes ago by China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi.

“We will never allow past aggressors to overturn the verdict of history,” he began. It went downhill from there.

When asked what he thought about the latest warning by Japan’s leader Shinzo Abe that the two countries are like England and Germany in 1914, he exploded with barely contained rage:

“Why would he make such a statement? Japanese leaders like to rewrite their history, but the Chinese people cannot forget episodes of history. The invasion of Manchuria in 1930 was an infamous chapter in Japan’s history. In 1937 they instigated the Marco Polo bridge incident before launching an all-out onslaught on China.

“Thirty-five million Chinese soldiers and civilians were killed. Who was the instigator? Who was the troublemaker? It is all too clear.”

He turned visceral over Mr Abe’s recent visit to the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo: “Even to this day the shrine still advocates that past aggression was justified, that the Pacific War was in self defence. It calls war criminals heroes, even today.

“How can a leader puts flowers on a shrine that violates international principles in this way? Japan’s Class A criminals were likes the Nazis. Can you imagine a European leader laying a wreath at a Nazi memorial?”

On the Diaoyu-Senkaku islands – the “Sarajevo” hot spot in the East China Sea – he claimed that Tokyo ignored warnings from Beijing that any move to nationalise the islands would be a grave escalation: “They broke the status quo. We had no choice but to move.”

I don’t wish to take sides in this dispute but it is a sobering to listen to this from China’s leading diplomat, an official who might normally try to play things down.

Yesterday in Davos I heard Japan’s premier Abe fulminate over the dangers of an arms race in East Asia that could shatter the existing world order, even as he attacked the secrecy of China’s defence budget.

“We must restrain military expansion in Asia, which could otherwise go unchecked. Disputes must be settled by the rule of law, and not through force and coercion,” he said.

He went on to tell Gideon Rachman at the FT that China and Japan were in a “similar situation” to the German and England in 1914, caught in dangerous process of great power escalation – even though their economies were intertwined by trade.

As readers know, I have been writing about this parallel for a long time. China is exploiting incidents to test the willingness of the United States to stand behind its treaty alliance with Japan, just as Kaiser Wilhelm provoked spats to test England’s willingness to stand behind its entente with France. It was a self-reinforcing process before 1914, and it is self-reinforcing now. All it takes to produce a catalyst is some “damn fool thing in the Balkans” to borrow a term.

Yet it is not just a calculated policy by China’s Communist Party, a stirring up of revanchiste nationalism to replace the dead ideology of Maoism. Emotions are also running out of control, and Mr Abe is of course a red-flag for a bull.

The Japanese leader is a hard-core nationalist. Despite his pitch yesterday that Japan has “sworn an oath never again to wage a war”, his government is in fact rearming fast. Japan has increased spending on military equipment by 23pc last year and is launching its largest ship since the Second World War, a helicopter carrier that can be used for hybrid jets.

Listening to the raw passion in the voices of Shinzo Abe and Wang Yi over the last 24 hours, I think there is an astonishing level complacency about the world’s most dangerous fault-line.

More by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: West’s 30-year vendetta with Iran is finally buried Trying to deleverage China without blowing up the system $60 oil will finish Russia’s Putin regime

South China Sea Code of Conduct Talks to Resume in Spring 2014

January 3, 2014

Thailand wants neither geopolitics nor competition between regional powers to affect negotiations between Asean and China over the South China Sea dispute, a senior diplomat says.

Permanent secretary for foreign affairs Sihasak Phuangketkeow said if the geopolitical situation is unstable, it could affect the negotiations between Asean and China on the code of conduct in the South China Sea.

He said the United States, which maintains a strong influence and interests in Southeast Asia, would like Thailand to play a more active role in the negotiations as the kingdom serves as the Asean-China coordinator.

The US would also like to have the code of conduct completed as soon as possible, and agreed that building peace in the region depends on how countries build norms amongst themselves, Mr Sihasak said.

The code of conduct “is part of norm-building to create relationships with one another. We tell all countries that the negotiations are an Asean-China matter, as powerful countries which have competing interests in this region should manage their relationships with other countries in the region,” he said.

China and Japan should define their relationship more clearly as both nations have historical problems, particularly related to the Second World War, he said.

Mr Sihasak will chair the senior official meeting between Asean and China in April in Thailand to work on details of the code of conduct, but he also plans to talk with Asean member countries before the before the meeting to seek consensus and strengthen Asean’s position for the negotiations.

The meeting will focus on urgent matters including the practice of search and rescue operations at sea, the setup of an emergency help hotline, and joint maritime activities.

All countries have agreed that the code doesn’t need to start from scratch. It should bring the principles of the Asean-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which saw its 10th anniversary in 2012, as well as the joint press statement of the Asean-China Ministers about the South China Sea, to use as the basis for their discussions, Mr Sihasak said.

The result of the meeting will be reported to the Asean Summit meeting in May to be hosted by the Myanmar government. Four Asean countries  —  the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei _ claim ownership over various parts of the South China Sea. China and Taiwan also have overlapping claims in the sea.

Mr Sihasak said the situation in the South China Sea was better now and he hoped that countries like China and the Philippines would engage in more dialogue to prevent further conflict in the region.

“Implementing the code of conduct will take time and all countries should maintain a stable climate in the South China Sea, especially China and the Philippines.

The tension over the sea has decreased due to the code negotiations,” he said, adding that there should be intermediate measures to build trust as the building blocks of the code.
The new Chinese leaders would like to present a “fresh face” to Asean and did not want the Asean-China dialogue to be dominated by South China Sea issues, Mr Sihasak said.

He said all countries agreed that the code negotiations should stick to building trust and not letting the situation in the South China Sea escalate, as the negotiations themselves are not the place to…

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“Stop spying on people!” — Syrian Electronic Army’s cyber-attacks compromising Skype’s Twitter, Facebook accounts

January 2, 2014

Image from

Image from


Syrian computer hacker conglomerate, the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), has kicked off the New Year with a number of cyber-attacks, compromising Skype’s Twitter, Facebook accounts, and its official blog.

Social media accounts belonging to Skype, Microsoft’s  voice-over-IP service, were hacked around 19:30 GMT. SEA posted  on Skype’s Twitter account a rogue message saying “Stop  spying on people! via Syrian Electronic Army.” The hacker  group also urged people not to use Microsoft accounts because the  company is “selling the data to the governments.”

SEA later re-tweeted the message using its own twitter page.


A similar message was posted on Skype’s Facebook page, but was  quickly deleted, according to TheNextWeb. The link to it, which  the SEA posted on its Twitter account, leads to a removed page.

Screenshot from facebook.comScreenshot from


Attacks were also generated on Skype’s official blog with posts  calling on the US to stop its global spying activity.

SEA continued to attack Microsoft via its twitter account  posting, “You can thank Microsoft for monitoring your  accounts/emails using these details.”


Since SEA’s inception in 2011, the organization has denied any  association with the Syrian government. They claim to be  self-motivated patriotic supporters of the government, but are  not acting on its behalf.

In 2013, SEA claimed responsibility for hacking a number of  Western media outlets including the New York Times, The  Washington Post, The Huffington Post and Thomson Reuters.  Arguably, their biggest success was the penetration of the  Associated Press twitter account that posted President Barack  Obama had been injured in a White House attack.

Skype has now fully regained control and deleted the false tweets  from the compromised social media channels. Its blog is being  automatically redirected to Skype’s homepage.

“We recently became aware of a targeted cyber-attack that led  to access to Skype’s social media properties, but these  credentials were quickly reset. No user information was  compromised,” a Skype spokesman responded to TheNextWeb  query.

Skype also tweeted that no accounts of its other users had been  compromised.


The latest attacks by the SEA follow Edward Snowden’s revelations  of NSA eavesdrop outreach, including Microsoft.
In November Microsoft and its Skype division were cleared of data  protection violations relating to the NSA scandal by the  Luxembourg data protection regulator, CNPD.

The probe into Microsoft’s collaboration on data sharing with the  NSA found that the transfer of some data to affiliate companies  in the US appears “to take place lawfully” under a  so-called Safe Harbor agreement.


Last November,

The hacktivist pro-Assad group known as the “Syrian Electronic Army” (SEA) briefly hijacked the Twitter feeds of TIME magazine in response to a critical description of President Assad’s candidacy for its ‘Person of the year’ award.

The SEA has tweeted from TIME’s official account: “Syrian  Electronic Army was here via @Official_SEA16. Next time write a  better word about the Syrian president #SEA”.
That tweet was soon deleted.

The group referred to TIME’s list of people – politicians and  celebrities – selected as potential winners for “Person of the  Year,” the magazine’s annual award.

Syrian President Bashar Assad is one of the candidates, while the  magazine describes him as: “Syria’s ruler presided over a bloody  year, shrugging off international concerns over the use of  chemical weapons as the death toll of his country’s civil war  eclipsed 100,000.”

The voting closes on December, 4, with TIME’s Person of the Year  to be announced on December 11.

The SEA also claimed interfering with the vote on the US  magazine’s webpage.

China foreign minister warns Japan of consequences over shrine visit

December 26, 2013

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Foreign Minister warned Japan’s ambassador to China on Thursday that Japan must bear the “full responsibility for the serious political consequences” of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to visit Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine for the war dead.

Wang Yi, in comments carried on China’s foreign ministry’s website, said Abe’s action has pushed Japan in an “extremely dangerous” direction.

The conservative Abe, who took office for a second time a year ago, had said he regretted not visiting the shrine – where Japanese wartime leaders are honoured along with war dead and which is seen in parts of Asia as a symbol of Japanese militarism – during his first 2006-2007 term.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee)


BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Foreign Ministry urged Japan on Thursday to keep its promises to reflect on its past wartime aggression, after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine for war dead.

“We solemnly urge Japan to abide by its commitment to reflect on its history of aggression, take measures to correct its error, eliminate the adverse effects and take concrete actions to win the trust of its Asian neighbours and the international community,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement.

Tokyo’s relations with Beijing are already strained by territorial rows and disputes stemming from Japan’s wartime occupation of large parts of China, which China considers Japan has never properly atoned for.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee and Li Hui; Writing by Ben Blanchard)


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and defense minister Itsunori Onodera at a military parade on October 27, 2013. Photo By Toru Yamanaka for AFP

China Says it Maintains Close Observation of U.S., Japan, Allies in the Ocean Areas

November 27, 2013

A U.S. B-52 bomber. China said Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 it had monitored two unarmed U.S. bombers that flew over the East China Sea in defiance of Beijing’s declaration it was exercising greater military control over the area. Tuesday’s flight of the B-52 bombers underscored U.S. assertions that it will not comply with Chinese demands that aircraft flying through its newly declared maritime air defense zone identify themselves and accept Chinese instructions. (AP Photo/Montgomery Advertiser, Karen S. Doerr, File)

By Christopher Bodeen

BEIJING (AP) – China acknowledged Wednesday it let two American B-52 bombers fly unhindered through its newly declared air defense zone in the East China Sea despite its earlier threat to take defensive measures against unidentified foreign aircraft.

The U.S. flights, which tested the Chinese zone for the first time since it was declared over the weekend, raised questions about Beijing’s determination to enforce its requirement that foreign aircraft identify themselves and accept Chinese instructions.

China’s lack of any action suggested that it was merely playing out a diplomatic game to establish ownership over the area rather than provoke an international incident.

The flights followed days of angry rhetoric and accusations over Beijing’s move, designed to assert Chinese claims to a group of uninhabited islands controlled by Japan.

The U.S. and Japan have said they don’t acknowledge the zone, and Taiwan and South Korea, both close to the U.S., also rejected it.

A Chinese Defense Ministry statement said the U.S. planes were detected and monitored as they flew through the area for two hours and 22 minutes. It said all aircraft flying through the zone would be monitored and that “China has the capability to exercise effective control over the relevant airspace.”

Asked repeatedly about the incident at a regularly scheduled briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said it had been handled according to procedures laid out in the Saturday statement but offered no specifics.

“Different situations will be dealt with according to that statement,” Qin said.

The U.S., which has hundreds of military aircraft based in the region, described the flights as a training mission unrelated to China’s announcement of the zone. U.S. officials said the two unarmed B-52 bombers took off from their home base in Guam around midday and were in the zone that encompasses the disputed islands for less than an hour before returning to their base, adding the aircraft encountered no problems.

The bomber flights came after State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said China’s move appeared to be an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea.

“This will raise regional tensions and increase the risk of miscalculation, confrontation and accidents,” she told reporters.

Australia, meanwhile, said it called in the Chinese ambassador to express concern about the sudden zone declaration.

“The timing and the manner of China’s announcement are unhelpful in light of current regional tensions, and will not contribute to regional stability,” Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in a statement.

Beijing’s move fits a pattern of putting teeth behind its territorial claims and is seen as potentially leading to dangerous encounters depending on how vigorously China enforces it – and how cautious it is when intercepting aircraft from Japan, the U.S. and other countries.

China is sending its sole aircraft carrier to the South China Sea for its first sea trial, alarming the Philippines, which has conflicting claims with Beijing over parts of the region. Manila said the aircraft carrier’s presence in the sea threatens regional stability.

Chinese reaction to the U.S. bomber flights was predictably angry, with some recalling the 2001 collision between a Chinese fighter and a U.S. surveillance plane in international airspace off China’s southeastern coast – the kind of accident some fear China’s new policy could make more likely. The Chinese pilot, Wang Wei, was killed in the crash and the U.S. crew forced to make a landing on China’s Hainan island, where they were held for 10 days and repeatedly interrogated before being released.

“Let’s not repeat the humiliation of Wang Wei. Make good preparations to counterattack,” wrote Zheng Daojin, a reporter with the official Xinhua News Agency on his Twitter-like Weibo microblog.

Businessman Li Pengliang said the island dispute had heightened anti-Japanese sentiment, but doubted the chances of an open conflict.

“The public is outraged, but I still believe that the leaders in power are sober minded. They will not act on impulse,” Li said.

Still others criticized the government’s handling of what they termed a battle of psychological pressure and international public opinion.

“China is terrible at telling its side of the story. The silent one is the loser so why don’t they better explain our response to the American bomber flight,” wrote Hu Xijin, editor of the nationalist tabloid Global Times, on his blog.

It wasn’t clear whether Beijing had anticipated the forceful response from Washington and others, or how well it is prepared to back up its demands.

Chinese scholars, who often serve as ad-hoc government spokesmen, criticized Tuesday’s flights as a crude show of force and said Beijing wasn’t looking for a fight.

“It’s not that China didn’t want to enforce its demands, but how do you expect China to react?” said Zhu Feng, an international security expert at Peking University.


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