NAOYA YOSHINO, Nikkei staff writer
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Defense announced Tuesday that two U.S. B-52 bombers flew through the controversial air defense identification zone set up by China over the East China Sea without giving advance notice to Beijing.
According to a department official, China did not issue any warnings or scramble fighter jets in response to the bombers’ entry into the zone.
The U.S. sees the designation of the new zone by Beijing as a challenge not only to Tokyo but also to American forces. Washington decided to conduct the flights as a demonstration, having determining that a verbal denouncement of the new zone was not enough to reduce the risk of an accident or other incidents taking place in the skies over the disputed Senkaku Islands, Okinawa Prefecture.
The bombers reportedly took off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and entered the zone Monday night, Eastern Standard Time.
Beijing previously announced that its armed forces “will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond to aircraft that do not cooperate in the identification or refuse to follow the instructions.”
The demonstration by the U.S. reflects Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s statement that this announcement by the People’s Republic of China will not in any way change how America conducts military operations in the region.
A U.S. defense source said Washington made a point of ignoring Beijing’s statement in order to send a message to the world that China’s new zone is invalid.
B-52s can carry nuclear weapons, but the two aircraft did not have any bombs on board as they were on a training mission. They were not escorted by any combat planes, either.