Senators to China: Back off island claim

Four top senators have sent China's ambassador to Washington a pointed letter warning the country to back off its territorial claims after the White House failed to win concessions on the issue.

The bipartisan letter accuses China of a “disturbing trend of increasingly hostile” actions in the Pacific, culminating with last month's unilateral establishment of an air defense zone over islands also claimed by U.S. ally, Japan. Its tone contrasts sharply with Vice President Biden's talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing earlier this week, during which Biden said the U.S. was “deeply concerned” about the zone but did not demand that China undo its declaration.

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“We urge your government not to implement this ADIZ [Air Defense Identification Zone] as announced, and to refrain from taking similar provocative actions elsewhere in the region,” the senators wrote. “There is nothing for China to gain by undermining regional stability and threatening the peace and prosperity [of the region].”

The letter was signed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and members Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.). It warns China that its actions “threaten freedom of air and maritime navigation,” which it calls “vital national interests of the United States.”

China took the world by surprise last month when it demanded that flights over the disputed Senkaku islands in the East China Sea — Diaoyu in Chinese — inform Beijing of their plans. The U.S. and Japan have protested the demand, and the U.S. Air Force flew a pair of B-52s over the islands last month without first telling the Chinese.

“We want to stress that China's declaration of the ADIZ over areas of the East China Sea does not alter the U.S. acknowledgment of Japan's administrative control over the Senkaku Islands or affect U.S. security commitments to Japan, Korea, and other allies in the Asia-Pacific,” the senators wrote.

China's decision, they say, is “potentially dangerous” and has made a “misunderstanding or miscalculation” more likely in an already tense part of the globe while reinforcing “the perception that China prefers coercion over rule of law mechanisms to address territorial, sovereignty and jurisdictional issues in the Asia-Pacific.” 

China Letter

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