China calls Japan's air zone remarks 'slanderous'

Beijing: China has rejected as "slanderous" a renewed call by Japan's leader for Beijing to rescind its controversial air defence zone, the latest salvo in a territorial dispute that has increased friction in the region.

Beijing's retort came hours after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a Japan-ASEAN summit in Tokyo on Saturday that he was "deeply concerned" by China's establishment of the air zone and that he believed many leaders of Southeast Asian countries attending the meeting shared his view.

"We express strong dissatisfaction with the Japanese leader's use of an international meeting to make slanderous remarks about China," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in an online statement late on Saturday.

He added that Japan's "attempt to promote a double standard and mislead international public opinion is doomed to fail".

"The one that has unilaterally changed the status quo over the Diaoyu islands is none other than Japan itself," Hong said.

He said China had taken lawful measures to safeguard its "sovereign territory" and was "fully justified and blameless".


China last month declared an air defence identification zone over an area of the East China Sea that includes the disputed Tokyo-controlled islands, which Japan calls the Senkakus.

Saturday's Japan-ASEAN summit was the first major gathering of Asian leaders since China's move to assert its power over the skies near its southeast coast.

In a joint statement, the heads of state on Saturday encouraged Japan's "proactive contribution to peace" and announced that they had "agreed to enhance co-operation in ensuring freedom of overflight and civil aviation safety", language viewed as a cautious show of support for Tokyo.