ASEAN declaration calls for 'freedom of overflight'

Dec. 14, 2013 at 3:48 PM   |   0 comments

TOKYO, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations adopted a statement Saturday implicitly criticizing China for declaring an air zone over an island group.

The statement does not name China or refer to its declaration of an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea, The Japan Times reported. It says Asean and Japan "agreed to enhance cooperation in ensuring the freedom of overflight and civil aviation safety, in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law."

ASEAN held a special meeting in Tokyo to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and the group.

Japan, China and Taiwan all claim an uninhabited island group known as the Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in China. The islands could be economically significant because of the potential to drill for oil in the surrounding waters.

China recently claimed the airspace over the islands, demanding that any aircraft entering the zone file flight plans.

Takashi Shiraishi, president of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo, said the ASEAN countries have great differences in their relationships with China. The Philippines and Vietnam are both involved in territorial disputes with China, while Cambodia is heavily dependent on Chinese aid and Thailand has close economic ties.

Shiraishi said he expects the ASEAN declaration to have some effect on China -- but not much.

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