China launched fighter jets to patrol its newly announced “air defense identification zone” on Thursday, after the U.S., Japan, and South Korea had flown military aircraft through in defiance of China’s claim.
Since announcing the zone, which overlaps with a similar Japanese zone that includes a string of disputed islands in the East China Sea, China has clarified that it was “not a territorial airspace,” and that unidentified warplanes that entered it could not be shot down. But China “has the right to identify and ascertain the intentions and attributes of aircraft from foreign countries and make the relevant response according to different situations and degree of threats,”said Col. Yang Yujun, a Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman, during a press conference in Beijing.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Tokyo, Beijing, and Seoul on Dec. 1 to talk about the rising tensions that the zone has created since it was announced on Saturday. The trip had initially been intended to discuss economic issues.