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US B52s fly over China defence zone

Two US B-52 bombers flew over disputed islands in the East China Sea during a training mission, defying new territorial claims laid out by Beijing over the weekend, according to several US officials.

The two unarmed bombers took off from Guam and were in the zone for less than an hour, thundering across the Pacific skies during midday on Tuesday, the officials said, adding that the aircraft encountered no problems.

While the US insisted the training mission was long-planned and was not in reaction to China's latest declaration, it came just days after China issued a map and a new set of rules governing the zone, which includes a cluster of islands that are controlled by Japan but also claimed by Beijing.

China said on Saturday that all aircraft entering the new air defence zone must notify Chinese authorities and are subject to emergency military measures if they do not identify themselves or obey Beijing's orders. US officials, however, said they have received no reaction to the bomber flights from the Chinese.

The bomber mission underscores Washington's immediate rejection of China's new rules. The US, which has hundreds of military aircraft based in the region, has said it has zero intention of complying. Japan likewise has called the zone invalid, unenforceable and dangerous, while Taiwan and South Korea, both close to the US, also rejected it.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest would not specifically comment Tuesday on the military flights. But he told reporters that, "It continues to be our view that the policy announced by the Chinese over weekend is unnecessarily inflammatory and has a destabilising impact on the region."

China's move to further assert its territorial claims over the islands is not expected to immediately spark confrontations with foreign aircraft.

Tensions remain high with Tokyo over islands in the East China Sea called Senkaku by Japan and Daioyu by China and Diaoyutai by Taiwan, which also claims them.. Beijing was incensed by Japan's September 2012 move to nationalise the chain.

Since then, Chinese and Japanese coast guard ships have regularly confronted each other in surrounding waters. Japan further angered Beijing last month by threatening to shoot down unmanned Chinese drones that Beijing says it plans to send on surveillance missions over the islands.

AP

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