Japan tells China to 'see reality' and 'accept' world's concerns over air zone

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan called on China Monday to see "reality" and "accept" there are widespread international concerns over Beijing's controversial air defence zone.

The comment by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's right-hand man came after China singled out Japan for criticism when 11 Asian countries stressed the importance of freedom of overflight at a summit in Tokyo, in a move seen as targeting Beijing.

"We think China should see the reality that many countries in the international community share concerns about the Air Defence Identification Zone and seriously accept it," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular briefing.

A joint statement by Japan and leaders of Asean "agreed to enhance cooperation in ensuring freedom of overflight and civil aviation safety".

While the statement did not name China, it was seen as a clear rebuke for Beijing, which has sovereignty disputes with Japan and with four members of the economic bloc, and which has been repeatedly accused of intimidation and coercion.

China has denounced as "slanderous" remarks by Mr Abe at the weekend summit calling for Beijing to rescind its air zone, which was widely criticised as increasing regional tensions.

The United States, Japan and South Korea have accused China of unilaterally changing the status quo by declaring an air defence zone in the East China Sea last month, in which it wants all aircraft to obey its orders.

The zone covers territory that is at the centre of separate disputes with Japan and South Korea.

Some analysts fear the ADIZ in the East China Sea is a forerunner to a similar zone in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety.