U.S. commercial airlines advised to notify China of flight plans

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 30, 2013 12:08 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Friday advised U.S. commercial airlines to notify Chinese authorities of flight plans over the East China Sea although a U.S. administration official said that did not mean Washington accepted China's new rules.

The directive came as tensions escalated over disputed islands in the East China Sea and China scrambled jets on Friday in response to two U.S. spy planes and 10 Japanese aircraft entering its new air defense zone.

China last week announced that foreign aircraft passing through the new air defense zone should identify themselves to the Chinese authorities.

"The U.S. government generally expects that U.S. carriers operating internationally will operate consistent with NOTAMs (Notices to Airmen) issued by foreign countries," the State Department said in a statement.

"Our expectation of operations by U.S. carriers consistent with NOTAMs does not indicate U.S. government acceptance of China's requirements."

On Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said U.S. carriers were being advised to take steps to operate safely over the East China Sea, but she did not know whether the new rules would affect commercial airlines, or just military aircraft.

A U.S. administration official told Reuters on Friday that China's action appeared to be an attempt "to unilaterally change the status quo in the East China Sea and thus will raise regional tensions and increase the risk of miscalculation, confrontation and accidents."

"We urge the Chinese to exercise caution and restraint, and we are consulting with Japan and other affected parties, throughout the region," the U.S. official said.

Beijing's new rules mean aircraft have to report flight plans to China, maintain radio contact and reply promptly to identification inquiries as well as display clear markings of their nationality and registration.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; editing by Christopher Wilson)