Forbes presses White House on Chinese defense zone

House Armed Services subcommittee chair Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) is pressing the White House to block U.S. commercial aircraft from complying with China's controversial air defense zone. 

In a letter to National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Forbes said the administration's guidance to American airliners to adhere to Beijing's demands "creates confusion about U.S. intentions and puts us at odds" with key allies in the Asia-Pacifc region. 

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The White House's request to commercial airliners to obey China's rules for the so-called Air Defense Identification Zone runs contrary to its orders for American military aircraft, which do not officially recognize the air defense zone. 

By complying with the new flight regulations, "U.S. airlines will be acknowledging the validity of China's [authority], at the same time other elements of the U.S. government are vigorously . . . contesting Beijing's behavior," Forbes said in the letter, sent to the White House on Tuesday. 

Chinese leaders instituted new rules for U.S. allied military aircraft operating in the skies above the Diaoyutai and Senkaku islands in the East China Sea. 

U.S. and allied forces are now required to identify themselves and their mission to Chinese forces before entering the air defense zone, according to Beijing. 

Last Tuesday, A pair of American B-52 bombers flew unannounced into the air defense zone above the East China Sea,  in a direct rebuke of China's asserted authority over the area.

"Given the potential for miscalculation in the current environment, it is essential that the administration speak with one voice on an issue directly affecting the future of American security interests" in the region, the Virginia Republican added. 

The Diaoyutai and Senkaku islands in the East China Sea have frequently been a flashpoint between China and U.S. allies in the Pacific.

A majority of American operations flown in the area, which had been considered international airspace, consist of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations and large-scale training missions with U.S allies. 

Declining to go into details, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said Monday that American military aircraft will continue to conduct missions in the zone on a regular basis. 

Most recently, the Pentagon deployed several P-8 Poseidon submarine-hunting aircraft to the air defense zone in the Pacific, in the latest step of military one-upmanship between Washington and Beijing. 

Last Friday, Beijing sent several fighter jets into the area, to patrol the air defense zone, further fueling concern the ongoing standoff could boil over into outright conflict. 

Vice President Joe Biden is currently in Beijing, meeting with top Chinese officials, in an attempt to quell tensions between the two world powers, spawned by the new air defense zone.