WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two unarmed U.S. B-52 bombers on a training mission flew over disputed islands in the East China Sea without informing Beijing, defying China’s declaration of a new airspace defense zone and raising the stakes in a territorial standoff.
The flight did not prompt a response from China, the Pentagon said, and the White House urged Beijing on Tuesday to resolve its dispute with Japan over the islands diplomatically, without resorting to “threats or inflammatory language.”
China published coordinates for an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone over the weekend and warned it would take “defensive emergency measures” against aircraft that failed to identify themselves properly in the airspace.
The zone covers the skies over islands at the heart of a territorial dispute that China has with close U.S. ally Japan.
“The policy announced by the Chinese over the weekend is unnecessarily inflammatory,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in California, where President Barack Obama is traveling.
“These are the kinds of differences that should not be addressed with threats or inflammatory language, but rather can and should be resolved diplomatically,” he said.
Two U.S. B-52 bombers carried out the flight, part of a long-planned exercise, on Monday night EST, a U.S. military official said.
The lumbering bombers appeared to send a message that the United States was not trying to hide its intentions and showed that China, so far at least, was unable or unwilling to defend the zone.