After sending two unarmed B-52 bombers over disputed islands in the East China Sea, the US will flex its diplomatic muscle over China’s “destabilizing” airspace grab.

Vice President Joe Biden will convey US concerns to China over its declaration of an air defense zone over the contested Senkaku, or Diaoyu islands, during a week-long diplomatic mission to East Asia.

He is expected to press China to clarify its motives over the creation of the new zone over the Japanese-administered islands claimed by the two nations.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called the move “potentially destabilizing” but assured Japan that Washington is committed to defending its key ally should a conflict erupts.

“US military operations will not in any way change as a result of China’s announcement, noting that recent routine and long-planned US flight operations have already occurred as normal,” Hagel spoke with Japan Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.

Hagel also commended the Japanese government for “exercising appropriate restraint” following China’s unilateral action.

The Obama administration described Beijing’s move as “an emerging pattern of behaviour by China that is unsettling to China’s own neighbors and raising questions about how China operates in international space and how China deals with areas of disagreement.”

China is “resolute in its will and resolve” to defend its sovereignty over the islands, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing. Qin insisted that the current escalation was caused by Japan’s “erroneous actions”.

Beijing lashed out the US for “interfering” in the territorial dispute, saying the US’ allegations over China’s motives were “completely unreasonable.”

“The US, on the issue of the Diaoyu Islands, must earnestly not take sides, not make inappropriate remarks and not give the wrong signal to Japan and encourage its risky behavior,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Yang Yujun said in a statement.

“We reiterate that the purpose of China’s approach is to defend national sovereignty and territorial airspace security, maintain the order of airspace flight, and is an effective exercise of our right of self-defense.”

Aircraft crossing the zone must report a flight plan, the Chinese defense ministry said. It also vowed to “respond in a timely and accurate manner” if the aircraft fails to identify itself.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: Huffington Post