TOKYO — Vice President Joe Biden delivered a carefully calibrated message of support to Japan today, saying the United States had deep concerns with a new air defense zone created by China but stopping short of demanding that Beijing roll it back.
As he began a weeklong trip to Asia that will take him to Beijing, Biden found himself in the midst of an increasingly tense standoff between Japan and China over Beijing’s creation of a zone of restricted airspace over contested islands in the East China Sea.
Administration officials insisted there was no daylight between the United States and Japan on how to respond to China’s move, despite the Federal Aviation Administration’s advice to U.S. carriers to identify themselves when entering the restricted zone. The Japanese government has instructed its carriers to ignore the Chinese demand.
“Nothing that FAA has done constitutes any acceptance or recognition of this,” said a senior administration official traveling with Biden.
“The U.S. has clearly set forth that our military aircraft will continue to operate normally without regard to the ADIZ,” he added, using the initials for air defense identification zone.
“The U.S. government position and the Japanese government position in the ADIZ are the same,” he said, “insofar as we see this as a provocative and unilateral effort to change the status quo and it was done in a way that is not in keeping with international norms or practices.”
Still, while the U.S. said it would urge China not to create any other such restricted zones, officials indicated that they would focus on pressing the Chinese government not to take any provocative actions in patrolling this one.
The Japanese government has demanded that China roll back the zone, which it perceives as an attempt by the Chinese to assert control over the disputed islands, known in the Japan as the Senkaku and in China as the Diaoyu.
For Biden, the dispute has been a distraction on a trip that he hoped would cover a range of issues, from a trans-Pacific trade agreement to the nuclear threat in North Korea.
Still, Biden found time to tour a Japanese Internet company founded and run by a female entrepreneur. Joined by Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and Cathy Russell, the State Department’s ambassador at large for global women’s issues, he chatted with five female employees in the banquette at the company’s sleek Tokyo offices.