TOKYO — Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the United States is "deeply concerned" about China's establishment of an air defense zone over disputed islands in the East China Sea, a message aimed at reassuring U.S. allies while leaving negotiating room as he headed to Beijing.
Biden blamed China for raising tensions with Japan and South Korea, which he said would "increase the risk of accidents and miscalculation" in the wide flight path above the disputed islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. But he stopped short of demanding that Beijing withdraw its declaration.
"We, the United States, are deeply concerned by the attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea," Biden said during an appearance with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after they met for talks about security and economic matters.
Biden's remarks, which echoed statements he made in a written interview with the Asahi Shimbun newspaper this week, were his first public comments on the dispute since arriving in Japan, the initial stop in a week-long trip to northeast Asia. The Obama administration hopes the trip will ease tensions as it seeks to refocus its foreign policy agenda on the fast-growing region.
The United States and Japan have continued to make military flights through the air defense zone in defiance of China's declaration. But reports that the Federal Aviation Administration had told U.S. commercial airlines that they should comply with China's demand for flight information before entering the zone have led some in Japan to question the Obama administration's position.
Biden pledged to Abe that he would raise U.S. concerns with Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping, in Beijing during meetings scheduled for today and Thursday. He finishes his trip in Seoul before returning to Washington on Saturday.