Vice President Joe Biden next week during a visit to China will raise U.S. concerns over that country's newly established air defense zone, which American officials ignored this week by sending two B-52 bombers through the disputed airspace.
Biden on Sunday will depart for a weeklong Asia trip, which includes stops in China, Japan and South Korea.
“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 said, previewing Biden’s itinerary.
“There is an emerging pattern of behavior by China that is unsettling to China’s own neighbors, and raising questions about how China operates in international space and how China deals with areas of disagreement with its neighbors,” the official added.
Senior administration officials said Biden would not travel to China “to deliver a demarché," hoping to foster a broader conversation with his Chinese counterparts about areas where the two nations can cooperate.
China has ordered all craft flying through the air zone — which includes islands claimed by Japan — to identify themselves. The establishment of the air zone though clearly riled U.S. officials, who were quick to denounce the move as a threat to American and Japanese interests. China said it tracked the progress of the two American bombers which flew threw the airspace on Tuesday.
The administration has long trumpeted a so-called “pivot” to Asia in foreign policy, but that agenda remained on the back burner as U.S. officials focused on curtailing Iran’s nuclear program, a deadly civil war in Syria and rising turmoil in Egypt in the wake of the Arab Spring.
Obama would like to devote more of his agenda to China, an Eastern superpower whose interests are increasingly intertwined with those of the United States.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a call Wednesday with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera called the air zone “a potentially destabilizing unilateral action designed to change the status quo in the region.”
Hagel said China’s move “raises the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation.”