China on aircraft carrier: 'Beyond reproach'
MANILA, Philippines – The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines on Friday, November 29, defended Beijing's move to deploy an aircraft carrier to the disputed South China Sea.
“This is a normal training mission and should be beyond reproach,” said Chinese Embassy spokesman Zhang Hua in an e-mail to Rappler.
President Benigno Aquino III himself earlier downplayed the deployment. On Thursday, November 28, he said the Chinese, after all, admitted that the aircraft carrier is “not yet fully operational.” (READ: Aquino on China carrier: Not a threat.)
He said this means “they're learning carrier operations, both the crews onboard the planes and also the pilots who will be flying the planes. So they are transiting here.”
Aquino said, “Why should anybody consider it a threat?”
The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it believes the exact opposite. On Wednesday, November 27, the DFA said the deployment “serves to threaten the status quo.” (READ: 'China threatening status quo' – DFA.)
'Infringes on freedom'
China's move came while it triggered another source of tension.
Over the weekend, it announced an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea.
The ADIZ requires aircraft to provide their flight plan, declare their nationality and maintain two-way radio communication, or face “emergency defensive measures.”
Japan, South Korea, the US and other countries have denounced China's new rules. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin called it a "dangerous move." (READ: PH closely coordinating with allies)
On Friday, China sent fighter jets and an early warning aircraft into the ADIZ, as Japan and South Korea stated they had defied the zone with military overflights. (READ: China sends fighter jets into air zone.)
The Chinese planes had conducted normal air patrols on Thursday as "a defensive measure and in line with international common practices," said Shen Jinke, spokesman for the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force, according to state news agency Xinhua.
The DFA denounced the ADIZ. On Thursday, it said the ADIZ "transforms the entire airzone into its domestic airspace, infringes on the freedom of flight in international airspace, and compromises the safety of civil aviation and national security of affected states."
"The Philippines calls China to ensure that its ADIZ preserves regional security and stability," the DFA said. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com