Asian airlines to give flight plans to China after airspace zone created

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(Reuters) – Asian airlines will inform China of their flight plans before entering airspace over waters disputed with Japan, regional aviation officials said on Monday, effectively acknowledging Beijing’s authority over a newly declared “Air Defense Identification Zone”.

China published coordinates for the zone on the weekend. The area, about two-thirds the size of the United Kingdom, covers most of the East China Sea and the skies over a group of uninhabited islands at the centre of a bitter row between Beijing and Tokyo.

Japan and its close ally, the United States, sharply criticized the move, which experts said was aimed at chipping away at Tokyo’s claim to administrative control over the area, including the tiny uninhabited islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.

While China said the new rules would not affect “normal operations” for international flights, it added that it would take “defensive emergency measures” against aircraft that failed to identify themselves properly.

China’s latest move could help spread the view that Japan was losing administrative control of the area, said Hiroko Maeda, research fellow at Japanese think-tank the PHP Institute.

“China has already been sending its ships (there). It is clear China is trying to undermine Japan’s administrative control. Now they are stepping up their effort in the sky as well,” Maeda said.

Civil aviation officials from Hong Kong and Taiwan said their carriers entering the zone must send flight plans to Chinese aviation authorities. A transport ministry official in Seoul said South Korean planes would do the same.

An official at the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau said Japanese airlines flying through the region to non-mainland Chinese destinations would likely need to inform China of their plans. “Airlines have been advised to take greater care in the area,” said another bureau official.

Singapore Airlines and Qantas Airways Ltd said they would keep Chinese authorities informed of their flights through the area.

Korean Air said its flight plans would be delivered to Chinese authorities but the routes its pilots took would not be affected. Japan Airlines and ANA Holdings also said the zone had not affected their flights