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China denies plan to set up new air defence zone in SCS

BEIJING (PTI): China has dismissed reports that it plans to set up an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea, similar to the one it had put up last year near the disputed islands in East China Sea.

"In a general view, the Chinese side has yet to feel any air security threat from the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) countries and is optimistic about its relations with the neighbouring countries and the general situation in the South China Sea region," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement on Jan. 1.

Hong dismissed the Japanese media reports that claimed China was preparing to announce a new defence zone in the area driven by territorial disputes with neighbouring countries.

China claims almost all of South China Sea as its own which is strongly contested by Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei -- all members of ASEAN.

China last year unilaterally declared an Air Defence Identification Zone in the East China Sea, asking foreign planes to provide their flight plans to Chinese authorities.

Analysts say an ADIZ similar to the one on East China Sea would have drawn strong reactions from neighbouring countries.

The US, Japanese and South Korean defence planes challenged China by flying their jets through it.

On Friday, China said it "expelled" foreign planes from the zone but did not identify the country.

When asked about reports of US officials' comments on the issue, Hong said China hopes the relevant parties remain cautious about their words and deeds, maintain a calm and objective stance, make joint efforts with China and make concrete contribution to peace, stability and security in the air and on sea of the region.

Hong said China, as a sovereign country, has all the legitimate rights to adopt all measures, including setting up ADIZ, to safeguard national security. No one should make irresponsible comments on this, he said.

He said the right-wing forces of Japan have repeatedly clamoured about the alleged plan of China to set up ADIZ over the South China Sea. He said this move is of ulterior motive and simply aimed to shift international attention from and cover up the plot to change Japan's pacifist constitution and expand its military power.

"We sternly warned these forces not to mislead public opinions with rumours and play up tensions for their own selfish benefit," state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Hong as saying.

Hong stressed that China and the ASEAN share a bright future for their relations.

China and the ASEAN countries are working together to implement the declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea in a comprehensive and effective way to safeguard peace and stability in the region, he said.

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