U.S. Directly Challenges China’s Air Defense Zone

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Pair of American B-52 Bombers Fly Over Disputed Islands

The U.S. moved forcefully to try to counter China’s bid for influence over increasingly jittery Asian neighbors by sending a pair of B-52 bombers over disputed islands in the East China Sea, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The B-52s took off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and flew more than 1,500 miles northwest, crossing into what China has declared as its new air-defense identification zone, at about 7 p.m. ET Monday. The U.S. deliberately violated rules set by China by refusing to inform Beijing about the flight, officials said.

China had warned of military action against aircraft entering the zone without notification, but didn’t respond to the B-52s, which weren’t armed and were part of a long-planned military exercise. A U.S. official said there was no attempt by the Chinese military to contact the B-52s. “The flight was without incident,” a U.S. official said.

By challenging a direct military warning, the U.S. flight risked a potentially destabilizing response by the Chinese. But the move also may have calmed tensions in the region by reassuring U.S. allies and keeping tempers in check in Japan, South Korea or other countries, Pentagon officials and defense analysts said.

The U.S. test was the outgrowth of months of growing tension in which China and its smaller neighbors have been jostling for control of waters with plentiful fishing stocks and potentially rich hydrocarbon reserves in the East China Sea and South China Sea.

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