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US flies B52 bombers inside China’s 'air defense zone'

The US has defied the Chinese declaration of a new airspace defense zone, flying two military aircraft around islands contested by Beijing and Tokyo. US officials have dismissed Beijing's policy as "inflammatory."

The US flew two B-52 bombers around the disputed Senkaku Islands, US officials reported on Tuesday, and without giving advance notice to Chinese authorities.

It followed a weekend declaration by China, which on Saturday published coordinates for an "East China Sea Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ)," including the islands.

The ADIZ declaration, if observed to by other nations, would give China control over airspace above some of the world's busiest international shipping lanes.

The Senkakus, known as the Diayou in Chinese, are the center of a long-running dispute for sovereignty between Beijing and Tokyo.

China had warned that it would take "defensive emergency measures" against aircraft that fail to correctly identify themselves within the airspace.

Routine training flights, says US

However, the US officials said that no changes had been made to normal flight routines.

"We have conducted operations in the area of the Senkakus," said US military spokesman Steve Warren.

"We have continued to follow our normal procedures, which include not filing flight plans, not radioing ahead and not registering our frequencies."

The mission went ahead "without incident," Warren said. He added that the two aircraft had spent "less than an hour" in the zone unilaterally-declared by China.

Both unarmed aircraft were said to have taken off from the US island of Guam on Monday as part of a scheduled training exercise, the military sources said.

A Pentagon spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Crosson, said the mission had been planned "well before" China declared the zone.

China lodges complaints

The White House on Tuesday said the dispute over the islands should be resolved diplomatically.

"The policy announced by the Chinese over the weekend is unnecessarily inflammatory," said White House spokesman Josh Earnes.

"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.

China's declaration of the zone prompted criticism by the US and Japan, warning that it raised the danger of unintended conflict.

Beijing lodged formal complaints with the US and Japanese embassies in China in response to the criticism.

rc/ipj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)