Japan’s two biggest airlines – All Nippon Airways (ANA) and flag carrier Japan Airlines (JAL) – have decided to go back on filing the flight plans demanded by China on routes through a new Chinese air defense zone, a request they initially agreed to. The creation of the new air defense zone has escalated tensions over the bitterly disputed region, and both ANA and JAL have agreed to a request from the Japanese government to stop acknowledging China’s set rules, and will stop doing so starting Wednesday, spokesmen for the carriers confirmed.
Japan and the United States both made their criticism of the creation of the defense area known publicly, saying that it is an effort to chip away at Tokyo’s claim to administrative control over the maritime region – which includes uninhabited islands in the East China Sea disputed by both countries. By demanding carriers file flight plans through the zone or risk being intercepted by military jets, China is forcing carriers including JAL and ANA to effectively acknowledge Beijing’s authority over the “Air Defense Identification Zone”, something that Tokyo does not want to happen.
International support against China’s unilateral announcement of this zone has grown over the past days. On Tuesday, several governments joined Tokyo in criticizing China’s latest bid to carve out a zone of control. Australia said on Tuesday that it had summoned the Chinese ambassador to convey its opinion that “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 that her country’s government “has made clear its opposition to any coercive or unilateral actions to change the status quo in the East China Sea.” Germany’s government said the move “raised the risk of an armed incident between China and Japan.”