BEIJING, Nov. 27 (UPI) -- Caroline Kennedy, the new U.S. ambassador to Japan, criticized China's establishing an air defense zone that included disputed islands in the East China Sea.
In her first speech as ambassador, Kennedy said Wednesday Beijing's unilateral decision raised tensions while voicing support for Japan's efforts to ramp up its security measures, such as establishing a national security council, The Japan Times reported.
"Unilateral actions like those taken by China with their announcement of an East China Sea air defense identification zone undermine security and constitute an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea. This only serves to increase tensions in the region and create unnecessary risk," Kennedy said at a welcome lunch in Tokyo.
China's Defense Ministry said Wednesday it "monitored" the flights of two unarmed U.S. B-52s over its newly created air defense zone earlier this week, but announced no action.
The Chinese zone covers the uninhabited islands -- known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China -- in the East China Sea, whose control by Japan has created a huge territorial dispute with China, which also claims the islands. The zone is seen as meant to strengthen China's claims to the islands.
Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said on the agency's website the U.S. bombers flew south and north along the eastern border of the zone about 124 miles east of the disputed islands.
The Chinese army monitored the entire flights, carried out identification in a timely manner and ascertained the type of aircraft, the ministry said.
"We need to stress that China will identify every aircraft flying in the air defense identification zone according to the country's announcement of aircraft identification rules for the ... zone," Geng said. "China is capable of exercising effective control over this airspace."
U.S. Defense Department officials have said the United States will not file flight plans and other information sought by China for the area.
The Americans dispatched the planes from Guam to fly a mission over the Chinese air defense zone. The planes completed their mission and returned to Guam.
Commenting on the flights, a senior Pentagon official told The New York Times they were "a demonstration of long-established international rights to freedom of navigation and transit through international airspace."
Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry characterized China's "unilateral action" as an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea that would "only increase tensions in the region and create risks of an incident."
"We don't support efforts by any state to apply its air defense zone procedures to foreign aircraft not intending to enter its national airspace," Kerry had said.
Chinese military experts, asserting the zone is needed for self-defense, have claimed it will not affect the flight freedom of other countries' planes, once they have reported information such as their nationalities and flight plans, and follow relevant instructions after they enter the zone.