(Adds Chinese Foreign Ministry comment, Chinese state media)
SYDNEY, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Australia summoned China’s ambassador to express concern over its imposition of an “Air Defence Identification Zone” over the East China Sea, the foreign minister said on Tuesday, decrying the move as unhelpful in a region beset by tension.
“The timing and the manner of China’s announcement are unhelpful in light of current regional tensions, and will not contribute to regional stability,” Julie Bishop said in a statement.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade yesterday called in China’s ambassador to convey the Australian Government’s concerns and to seek an explanation of China’s intentions.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the ambassador “fully expounded upon China’s considerations and aims in setting up the East China Sea Air Defence Inspection Zone, and expounded upon our position and viewpoints”.
“(I) hope Australia can correctly understand (our motives), and work together to protect flight safety in the relevant zone. We also hope that Australia can actively work towards regional peace and stability,” he told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
Aviation officials on Monday said Asian airlines would inform China of their flight plans before entering airspace over waters disputed with Japan, effectively acknowledging Beijing’s authority over the newly declared zone.
China published coordinates for the zone on the weekend. The area, about two-thirds the size of Britain, covers most of the East China Sea and the skies over a group of uninhabited islands at the centre of a bitter row between Beijing and Tokyo.
China says that the zone will not affect what it calls normal operations of international flights and has rejected criticism of it from both Washington and Tokyo.
The official People’s Liberation Army Daily said there was no cause for alarm.
“In the ADIZ, generally there will only be a requirement for flying objects to report their nationality, position and flight plan, in order to ascertain position, and make identification and control easier,” it wrote in a commentary.
It said the only countries or people which could possible be nervous about this were those who “have covetous hearts”.
“If there is no intention of casting greedy eyes on our territory, then why make expressions of worry?” the newspaper wrote.
China’s Defence Ministry says it will also set up other similar zones when the necessary preparations are completed, though it has yet to provide details. (Reporting by Lincoln Feast; Additional reporting by Natalie Thomas, Megha Rajagopalan and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Ron Popeski)