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China says it ‘monitored’ U.S. B-52 flights in air zone

U.S. move comes after Beijing declares new airspace defense zone

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China had monitored the entire progress of two unarmed U.S. B-52 bombers that flew over disputed islands in the East China Sea on a training mission without informing Beijing, its Defense Ministry said Wednesday.

“The Chinese air force monitored the entire course and identified (them) in a timely way, ascertaining that they were U.S. aircraft,” Reuters quoted the ministry as saying in a statement published on its website.

“The Chinese side has the ability to effectively manage and control the relevant airspace,” it added.

Meanwhile, White House spokesman Josh Earnest would not specifically comment Tuesday on the military flights.

“It continues to be our view that the policy announced by the Chinese over weekend is unnecessarily inflammatory and has a destabilizing impact on the region,” the Associated Press quoted him as telling reporters traveling with the U.S. president in Los Angeles.

At least in the short term, the move undermines Beijing’s drive for regional influence, Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told the Associated Press.

“It doesn’t serve Chinese interests to have tensions with so many neighbors simultaneously,” she said.

Denny Roy, a security expert at the East-West Center in Hawaii, said China’s enforcement will likely be mostly rhetorical at first.

“The Chinese can now start counting and reporting what they call Japanese violations, while arguing that the Chinese side has shown great restraint by not exercising what they will call China’s right to shoot, and arguing further that China cannot be so patient indefinitely,” Roy said.

(With Reuters and AP)

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