The United States has declared its support for Japan in the ongoing dispute with China over islands located in the East China Sea which Japan administrates.
China established, unilaterally, an air defense zone last weekend, which Japan and the United States don’t recognize.
As tensions grow in the area, the Obama administration is accusing Beijing of actions that have unsettled neighbors in the area.
United States Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel assured his Japanese counterpart that the defense pact includes the disputed Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu in China, according to Reuters.
On Tuesday, the United States defied China’s specific orders that aircraft identify themselves and sent two unarmed B-52 bombers to the newly established air defense zone over the tiny islands.
Some see the move as a way of showing the Chinese that the United States still has a strong presence in the tense region.
All this comes ahead of a planned visit by United States Vice President Joe Biden to Japan, China, and South Korea next week.
Biden will look to ease tensions between the two Asian countries, after China’s declaration, according to a senior administration official.
Even though the United States does not take sides on the sovereignty of the islands, its pact with Japan bounds it to defend its ally if a conflict were to occur.
China says the United States’ move to send bombers to the area was closely monitored, but the Pentagon says they were not contacted by Chinese authorities.
During a conference call with reporters, senior administration officials say China’s declaration raised serious concerns about its true intentions.
“It causes friction and uncertainty, it constitutes a unilateral change to the status quo in the region, a region that’s already fraught. And it increases the risk of miscalculation and accidents,” one of the officials said.
China’s unilateral declaration of an air defense zone, not only affects military operations, but other aircraft that uses the air space on a daily basis, such as commercial airliners.
Last week, the United States instructed American airliners to inform Beijing of flight plans when traveling over the zone to avoid putting passengers at risk.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States was trying to determine whether China’s new rules also apply to commercial airlines.
As to whether United States carriers would advise Chinese officials of their flight plans, Psaki said, “I wouldn’t go that far, we’re still looking at it.”