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Operations unchanged near China's air defense zone

Dec. 5, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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The U.S. military has continued regular flights in and near Chinese air defense zones and has not received any responses that are “out of the ordinary,” defense officials said.

Last week, the Air Force flew two unarmed B-52 Stratofortress bombers through China’s Air Defense Identification Zone, an area of nearly 1 million square miles of ocean in the East China sea, which includes waters off of Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

U.S. flights in the area continue “regularly,” although bombers have not been sent back to the area since the original B-52 flights from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, on Nov. 25.

“We have not changed our operations at all,” Army Col. Steven Warren, director of Defense Department press operations, said Monday.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday that he had not spoken with Chinese defense officials about the zone, but that the U.S. still wants to work for stable relationships with China.

“It is important that in an international community that’s getting more and more crowded, that we all understand and have common interest in the preservation of open, free sea lanes and what’s in the interests of our countries, our economies, our security, and we’re going to have to work on mechanisms that help accommodate the rules of conduct in other areas,” Hagel said. “And that’s an area where we can continue to play a role, and will.”

Warren said that the Defense Department also has not heard any reactions from the Chinese that would be considered “out of the ordinary.”

Warren would not elaborate on the types of flights or if they occur more than weekly. The Air Force has F-15 and F-16 fighters stationed in Japan and Korea, along with a rotation of F-22s to Kadena Air Base, Japan. The Navy on Nov. 29 sent the first of six P-8A Poseidon surveillance jets to Japan, which are scheduled to replace P-3 Orions that are already assigned there.

Vice President Joe Biden is on a weeklong trip to Asia, including a stop in China. Biden said the air defense zone has caused “significant apprehension” in the region.

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