Japanese Airlines Defy China Demand for Data in Air ZoneChris Cooper and Kiyotaka Matsuda
ANA Holdings Inc. and Japan Airlines Co., the nation’s largest carriers, flew through a new Chinese air-defense zone without notifying the country after Japan asked airlines to stop giving flight information to China.
ANA’s flight from Tokyo touched down in Taipei at 1:11 p.m. Japan time, Yoichi Uchida, a spokesman for the company, said by telephone. JAL’s flight from Osaka touched down in Taipei at 12:24 p.m., Kazunori Kidosaki, an airline spokesman, said.
Japan’s government yesterday told its domestic airlines to stop providing flight information to China, which has mandated planes to give details when flying through the new zone it created. Japan has denounced the creation of the area and the U.S. military flew two unarmed B-52 bombers into the area, which includes a chain of islands in the East China Sea that Japan purchased in September 2012, leading to a flare-up in tensions and slump in tourism.
“The Chinese and Japanese governments are playing a game of chicken,” said Edwin Merner, president of Atlantis Investment Research Corp. in Tokyo. “The government said no to reporting and the airlines had a choice of ignoring it or going around and they took the decision to comply.”
China has the ability to effectively manage and control the air-defense zone, Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said, according to a statement posted on the ministry website. The U.S. planes’ flight along the zone was under Chinese military surveillance, according to the statement.
Peach Aviation Ltd., a low-fare affiliate of ANA, also flew through the area from Osaka and reached the gate in Taipei at 11:16 a.m. Japan time, Naoto Domeki, a spokesman for the carrier, said today.
ANA and JAL yesterday said separately they are reversing an earlier decision and would stop reporting flight plans for planes traveling through the new Chinese zone from today.
Shares of JAL fell 0.8 percent to 5,150 yen at the close of Tokyo trading, declining for a ninth consecutive day. ANA was unchanged at 208 yen.
The carriers shifted their stance on instructions from The Scheduled Airlines Association of Japan, the airlines’ trade group that acted as an intermediary between the airlines and Japan’s Civil Aviation Bureau, Maho Ito, an ANA spokeswoman, said by telephone.
The U.S. military flew two unarmed B-52 bombers into the zone without any incident, according to a U.S. defense official. China announced the air-defense identification zone effective Nov. 23 and said its military will take “defensive emergency measures” if aircraft enter the area without reporting flight plans or identifying themselves.
“Japan is our most important ally in the region,” Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, said in a speech in Tokyo today. “This relationship has underwritten the peace, security and prosperity of the Asia Pacific region for more than six decades. Disputes should be resolved through diplomacy and dialogue and we are ready to assist in this process any way we can.”
The disputed islands, known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese, lie inside the new air defense zone. Both nations claim sovereignty over the area, whose waters are rich in oil, natural gas and fish. The dispute comes as China and Japan seek a greater role in the region, courting nations in Southeast Asia.
The information that ANA had been supplying to China was the same shared with other countries, according to Ryosei Nomura, a spokesman for the Tokyo-based carrier. The data included planes’ route, and cruising altitude and flight time, Nomura said.
Other countries’ carriers are awaiting government guidance.
“There has been no change to our operations,” Lee Hyo Min, a spokeswoman for Seoul-based Asiana Airlines Inc., said yesterday. “We have not yet provided any flight plans to China on services that pass through the zone because there has been no guideline from the government. We will make change if and when the government revises this guidelines.”
Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., the Hong Kong-based carrier, said its flight operations are normal. The creation of the zone hasn’t affected operations of commercial flights so far, the International Air Transport Association said in an e-mailed response to Bloomberg News.
“Some airlines have had to take some extra steps at the moment, such as filing flight plans manually,” IATA said. “We are trying to get more details from the Chinese authorities to clarify ongoing operational requirements.”
The announcement of the zone follows a decision by Communist Party leaders this month, after a meeting led by President Xi Jinping, to form a state committee to coordinate security issues as China broadens its military reach.