China sends surveillance jets to East China Sea defense zone
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's airforce has dispatched another patrol to monitor its controversial air defense zone in the East China Sea and issue warnings to foreign military jets in the zone, it said on Friday.
The United States, Europe and Japan have criticized China's air defense zone, saying its establishment last November was provocative and exacerbates tensions between Beijing and Tokyo.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this week said Japan and China should avoid repeating the past mistakes of Britain and Germany, which fought in World War One despite strong economic ties.
Ties have been strained by a recent visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to a controversial shrine for war dead, China's air defense zone and the long-running dispute over a string of East China Sea islets that both countries claim, known as the Diaoyu in Chinese and the Senkaku in Japanese.
China, which is rapidly expanding military spending and is the world's second largest economy, has repeatedly dispatched long-range patrols to the East China Sea since it established the defense zone.
The most recent patrol, made up of several aircrafts, set out to verify the identities of foreign crafts, shadow planes to "collect evidence" about them, and administer warnings, said Defense Ministry spokesman Shen Jinke, according to an article in the official Liberation Daily posted on the ministry's website.
The Air Defence Identification Zone has not impacted commercial air traffic, Shen added, and China's patrols are purely defensive and consistent with international norms.
China has frequently given verbal warnings to foreign military aircrafts to enforce its dominion over the zone.
Japanese fighter jets scrambled against Chinese planes a record number of times in April-December.
(Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Michael Perry)
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