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US: 2 bombers over China’s new airspace were on long-planned training

WASHINGTON — Two U.S. B-52 bombers flew unannounced near a chain of islands claimed by both Japan and China, and through a newly established air defense zone China claims it controls, according to multiple media reports.

“Last night, eastern time, there was a military training sortie in the vicinity of the Senkaku Islands,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Tom Crosson said Tuesday. “This was a long-planned training sortie.”

There was no reaction from China, Crosson said.

Multiple media outlets reported that the aircraft were B-52 bombers, but Pentagon officials would not confirm that. The unarmed B-52s took off from Guam, entered the new zone for less than an hour without incident, and then returned to their home base, according to the Associated Press.

China on Saturday announced the creation of an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone, near what it calls the Diaoyu Islands, and what the Japanese call the Senkaku, some 100 miles northeast of Taiwan, and some 200 miles from the Chinese mainland.

The United States has said it does not have a position on the final outcome of the territorial issue, but says the islands are under Japanese administration and that it opposes unilateral action by China to control them. China said any aircraft in the area must identify itself and follow the direction of Chinese air traffic control.

But a Pentagon spokesman said Monday that the U.S. will not change its flight operations to comply with China’s newly claimed air-defense zone.

“We will not in any way change how we conduct our operations,” Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters. “U.S. pilots won’t register their flight plans or identify their transponder or frequency.”

Wire stories contributed to this report.

news@stripes.com

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