Tough task ahead for Biden on Asia trip

US Vice-President will have to calm storm brewing over China's air zone

US Vice-President Joe Biden arrives for a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on October 15, 2013. Mr Biden begins a visit to Japan, China and South Korea on December 02, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP 

WASHINGTON - A long-planned visit by US Vice-President Joe Biden to Japan, China and South Korea starting today takes on a whole new dimension after a week of escalating tensions in the East China Sea.

While Mr Biden's agenda will still include its original elements - re-emphasising the rebalance towards Asia and discussing the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement - the trip will now likely be dominated by the task of calming the storm brewing over China's shift towards a more aggressive foreign policy stance.

Observers say he will have the difficult task of asserting America's position without coming off as lecturing China. The White House has stressed that it wants to advance the US-China relationship.

In its latest provocative move, Beijing declared a new air defence zone last week that overlaps with those of its neighbours and covers the islands it is disputing with Japan. Beijing now wants aircraft to submit flight plans when traversing the area.