The Pentagon said Friday it will continue to operate in an air zone over the East China Sea that China recently declared as under its control.
“We have flights routinely transiting international airspace throughout the Pacific, including the area China is including in their [air defense identification zone],” said Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren.
“These flights are consistent with long standing and well known U.S. freedom of navigation policies that are applied in many areas of operation around the world. I can confirm that the U.S. has and will continue to operate in the area as normal.”
The statement comes after China sent two fighter jets to tail U.S. and Japanese warplanes that were flying in the airspace in defiance of China’s Nov. 23 announcement that all planes flying through the area would have to submit flight plans and other information to Beijing authorities.
Chinese media reports said the fighter jets identified the planes but took no action.
China’s newly declared “Air Defense Identification Zone” includes airspace over the East China Sea, which is home to a tiny but hotly contested group of islands that have been under administrative control by Japan but also claimed by China.
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The U.S., which has defense treaties with China’s regional neighbors Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, immediately issued a response dismissing the declaration before sending B-52 bombers through the zone Monday as part of a training exercise.
South Korea and Japan also sent planes through the zone before the Chinese fighter jets were scrambled.
Through official media outlets, Chinese officials said their air force would remain on high alert and would take measures to protect China’s airspace.