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Biden in Asia vows US will stand by Japan

In Tokyo, Joe Biden has said Japan and China need more sophisticated communication strategies to work through their territorial row. The vice president also said that the US would stand by Japan.

In Tokyo on Tuesday, at the start of a three-nation Asia tour, Biden said he would talk with China about the declaration last month of an air defense zone over islands disputed with Japan.

"We, the United States, are deeply concerned by the attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in the East China Sea," Biden told reporters in a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

In November, China proclaimed an Air Defense Identification Zone over the islets, called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai in Chinese. China has said that within the perimeter above international waters separating China from South Korea, Japan and Taiwan - which also claims the islands - aircraft must obey Chinese instructions or risk "defensive emergency measures."

The US, Japan and South Korea reject the new zone. All three countries have since sent official planes into the region without notifying China.

On Monday, China's ambassador to the Philippines claimed the country had the right to establish another zone over the South China Sea, where those countries have a similar territorial dispute, a decision the United States also opposes.

'Accidents and miscalculation'

"This underscores the need for crisis management mechanisms and effective channels of communication between China and Japan to reduce risk of escalation," Biden told reporters, saying the zone would "increase the risk of accidents and miscalculation."

Abe has sought backing, saying China has become unreasonable and aggressive. He said he found the US incursion by B-52 bombers into the zone heartening.

"We ... confirmed that we should not tolerate the attempt by China to change the status quo unilaterally by force, and we will continue to work closely in dealing with the situation based on the strong US-Japan alliance," Abe said Tuesday. "We reaffirmed that policies and measures, including those on operation of [Japan's] Self-Defense Forces and US forces, are not changed and that we will maintain close cooperation."

China maintains claim

In a statement released late Tuesday, a spokesman for China's Defense Ministry called the zone in line with international conventions and said it did not threaten any specific country. However, the 1,000-word statement released through China's official Xinhua news agency strongly criticized Japan's actions over the disputed islands since September 2012.

"Japan's actions have seriously harmed China's legitimate rights and security interests, and undermined the peace and stability in East Asia," the spokesman said in the statement. "China has to take necessary reactions."

Abe and Biden also agreed to seek a conclusion to the US-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations, which has met resistance in Japan. Representatives of the 12 negotiating countries will meet in Singapore between December 7 and 10, saiming for an agreement by the end of the year.

Biden moves on to Beijing on Wednesday for talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping before flying to Seoul, where he will meet South Korean President Park Geun-Hye.

mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)