Taiwan legislature urges China to retract air defense zone

Taiwan's legislature showed rare unity Friday by urging China to retract its claim to an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea, covering disputed islands claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan.

Legislators across party lines issued a joint statement urging retraction of the new zone announced last Saturday, which drew condemnation from some of China's neighbors and countries in the wider region.

It overlaps similar zones operated by Japan and Taiwan in the East China Sea where Tokyo has been feuding with Beijing and Taipei over ownership of the Japanese-administered Senkakus, which are called Tiaoyutai in Taiwan and Diaoyu in China.

The legislators urged Beijing to exercise self-restraint and work with Taiwan, Japan, the United States, South Korea and Australia to peacefully resolve the dispute.

They also asked the Taiwanese government to lodge a stern protest with China, to coordinate with countries in the region and to refuse to comply with China's requirement that flight plans be submitted for planes flying through the new zone, as Japan, the United States and South Korea have refused to do.

Later Friday, the Taiwanese government said it will express its "solemn stand" to China through proper channels, while it said the island's military will continue carrying out missions in its own air defense identification zone.

Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration has been complying with China's new rules, leading to criticism in some quarters that it has been too weak in its response.

President Ma Ying-jeou said Tuesday that the new zone "does not concern the issue of territorial airspace, nor territorial sovereignty" of Taiwan and that the overlapping area with the self-ruled island's own air identification zone "is so small that it does not affect military exercises."

China has warned its military could take emergency defensive measures against any flying objects entering its airspace if its notification requirements are ignored.

However, the United States flew a pair of B-52 bombers through the China-proclaimed zone on Monday without informing Beijing, while Japanese military aircraft have done the same in recent days.