Kerry warns China on air defense zone
ULAN BATOR, Mongolia—US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday warned Beijing against setting up an air defense identification zone (Adiz) over the disputed South China Sea.
Washington would consider the establishment of such a zone—which would require civilian aircraft to identify themselves to military controllers—“a provocative and destabilizing act,” Kerry told reporters in Ulan Bator during a visit to Mongolia.
Kerry’s remarks came on the eve of a US-China dialogue in Beijing and after a Hong Kong newspaper cited Chinese military sources as saying Beijing was mulling such a zone, similar to one Beijing established over the East China Sea in 2013.
China claims nearly all of the strategically vital South China Sea despite competing claims by several Southeast Asian neighbors, and has pressed its claims by rapidly building artificial islands suitable for military use.
Washington has responded by sending warships close to Chinese claimed reefs, angering Beijing.
Further US actions in the region “will give Beijing a good opportunity to declare an Adiz in the South China Sea,” a Chinese military source told the South China Morning Post newspaper last week.
Kerry said such a move would “raise tensions and call into a serious question China’s commitment to diplomatically manage the territorial dispute.”
He repeated Washington’s standard line that it does not take sides in disputes over the sea.
But that stance has been called into question by US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who last month accused Beijing of “pressing excessive maritime claims contrary to international law.”
China blasted his remarks as expressing “typical US thinking and US hegemony” and a “Cold War mentality.”
Carter warned a regional security forum in Singapore on Saturday that Chinese construction on Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, in waters within the territory of the Philippines, would prompt “actions being taken” by the United States and other nations.
The United States and Mongolia have enjoyed strong ties for decades. Washington sees the country as a strategic ally against its regional rivals Russia and China.
Mongolia depends on Russia for three-quarters of its oil and China for most of its trade, but sees US relations as a hedge against its neighbors.
Hillary Clinton and US Vice President Joe Biden are among other top officials to have visited the country in recent years as Washington “pivots” to Asia.
Kerry met with Mongolia’s President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, and was scheduled to attend a festival of horse racing and Mongolian wrestling.
“We’re delighted to be, in a sense, your third significant friend,” Kerry told Mongolia’s foreign minister.
“Mongolia has made remarkable progress for a young democracy,” he told reporters.
The former Soviet nation of about 3 million people possesses enormous mineral resources and deposits of gold, copper and uranium, still largely untapped. AFP
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