Biden: Air-defense zone causes 'apprehension'

Vice President Biden said Wednesday he was direct with Chinese leaders that the country's new air-defense zone had caused major "apprehension” in the region. 

Biden reiterated in a speech to business leaders that he brought up the move with Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting.  

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“China's recent and sudden announcement of the establishment of a new Air Defense Identification Zone has, to state the obvious, caused significant apprehension in the region,” he said at a breakfast in China with the American Chamber of Commerce and the U.S.-China Business Council.

Biden is on a weeklong trip to the region, making stops in China, Japan and South Korea. He departed China and landed in South Korea Thursday morning. 

Biden’s trip to the region comes amid tensions over an air-defense zone China set up last month. The country has asked to be notified of any travel through the disputed area. However, American military planes have refused to recognize it.  

“And I was very direct about our firm position and our expectations in my conversations with President Xi,” Biden said. “But I also put this in a broader context.”

He said China has an increased responsibility to promote security as the region’s economic power grows.

Biden urged the country to refrain from making moves that increase tension, worrying that the zone has the potential for accidental conflict and miscalculation. 

A senior administration official on Wednesday said Biden and Xi covered "every single topic in the U.S.-China relationship," including the air-defense zone in their 5 1/2 hours together. 

“[Biden] indicated that we don’t recognize the zone, that we have deep concerns," and the vice president said the Unites States is "looking to China to take steps to reduce tensions," the official said.

The official added that it is ultimately up to China, saying, "We'll see how things will unfold in the coming days and weeks."

“And so the only path to realizing this vision for the future is through tangible, practical cooperation and managing our differences effectively,” Biden said in his speech. “We’ve not tried this before. We’ve not tried this before. This is going to be difficult. But if we get it right, the outcome for our children and grandchildren can be profound — profoundly positive.”