China's claim of a new air defense zone over the East China Sea is intended not only to destabilize relations in the region, but also to drive a wedge between the United States and its ally Japan, said former U.S. Ambassador to China John Huntsman.
China is trying to delegitimize Japan's claim to a group of disputed islands, as well as other claims by Vietnam, the Philippines and others, Huntsman said Wednesday on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."
The United States takes no side in the dispute over the islands, but recognizes Japan has administrative control over them. That makes the United States responsible for aiding Japan in any military conflict over them because of the two countries' security alliance.
"So we have to be vigilant in terms of close consultation with Japan," Huntsman said.
China announced the new zone over the weekend, and was met with criticism from the United States and Japan. Two unarmed U.S. B-52 bombers flew
through the airspace Tuesday without identifying themselves to the Chinese.
Huntsman said that "freedom of navigation maneuver" was the right thing to do.
"If we had allowed any blue sky to prevail there it could have been real trouble in terms of the Chinese further claiming that as theirs and scaring the neighborhood," he told CNN.
But he warned the United States should be careful not to escalate tensions with no clear plans to de-escalate.
Retired Maj. Gen. James "Spider" Marks told CNN that shouldn't be a problem. America and China have been doing the diplomatic "dance" for some time, he said.
"We've been able to do this dance pretty effectively," he said.
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