Japanese airlines stop obeying China's air defence zone rules

A airport worker drives a luggage transport vehicle past one of the company's Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner plane (left) and a Beoing 767 at Narita international airport in Narita, east of Tokyo, on Nov 11, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS
A airport worker drives a luggage transport vehicle past one of the company's Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner plane (left) and a Beoing 767 at Narita international airport in Narita, east of Tokyo, on Nov 11, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese airlines said on Wednesday they had stopped following rules set by China when it unilaterally declared the right to manage the skies over the East China Sea.

The reversal comes after pressure from the Japanese government, which insisted China's announcement was invalid, and after governments around the world lined up alongside Tokyo.

Japan's two major airlines had previously said they had been submitting flight plans to the Chinese authorities for any plane that was due to pass through the area, a key demand Beijing set out on Saturday when it said it had established an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ).

The move heightened tensions in the region, where temperatures were already running high over the ownership of the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands, which Beijing says it owns and calls the Diaoyus.

On Tuesday it was roundly condemned by Japan and its allies, including the United States, which flew two US B-52 bombers over the disputed islands in a show of force.

"After the Japanese government said private airlines don't have to follow Beijing's claims on Tuesday, our industry body held a meeting on Tuesday and decided we won't follow" Beijing's demands any more, a spokesman for former flag carrier Japan Airlines (JAL) told AFP.

"JAL has stopped submitting flight plans since 12am on Wednesday," he said.

JAL's rival All Nippon Airways also said it has stopped complying.

"The Scheduled Airlines Association of Japan, an aviation industry body, made the decision after it received assurances from China, through the Japanese Foreign Ministry, that Beijing has no intention of obstructing the flights of commercial airline carriers," the JAL spokesman said.