Biden to convey 'concerns' to Beijing on air zone

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Vice-President Joe Biden will convey Washington’s “concerns” to Beijing about its newly-declared air defence zone during an upcoming visit to China, senior administration officials said on Wednesday.

Mr Biden’s trip next week also creates an opportunity to seek clarity regarding China’s intentions during talks with policymakers there, the officials said.

Mr Biden is slated to visit Japan, China and the Republic of Korea starting Monday and will return to Washington on December 7.

The comments, during a preview of the trip, came after US B-52 bombers flew over a disputed area of the East China Sea, challenging Beijing’s claims over the weekend to an expanded air defence zone.

The move is seen as a clear warning that Washington would push back against what it considers an aggressive stance by China in the region.

“Clearly, the visit to China creates an opportunity for the vice president to discuss directly with policymakers in Beijing this issue, to convey our concerns directly and to seek clarity regarding the Chinese intentions in making this move at this time,” a senior administration official told reporters.

“It also allows the vice president... to make the broader point that there’s an emerging pattern of behavior by China that is unsettling to China’s own neighbours and raising questions about how China operates in international space and how China deals with areas of disagreement with his neighbours,” the official added.

Still, the official emphasised, Mr Biden would not be delivering a “demarche” to Beijing.

“He’s going to have a very high-level and a very wide-ranging dialogue with the senior Chinese leadership that covers a wide range of shared interests along with areas of concern, areas of cooperation and areas of deconfliction,” the official said.

The officials stressed that the visit to the region was long-planned and served to underscore that the “United States is a resident Pacific power, we’re here to stay and we’re actively engaged on the full spectrum of issues in the region.”

While in Beijing, mr Biden will hold bilateral meetings with President Xi Jinping, Vice-President Li Yuanchao and Premier Li Keqiang.

In Japan, where he will make a stop before heading to China, Mr Biden’s itinerary includes a working dinner with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and he will also be meeting with members of the diet.

Rounding out his trip in Seoul, the vice-president will meet with both the president and the prime minister.