In Asia visit, Biden to remind China that US is a Pacific power
WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joe Biden heads to Asia on Monday amid an escalating spat over the East China Sea with a message mainly directed at China that the United States is a Pacific power.
Biden's first stop will be Tokyo, followed by Beijing and Seoul.
The trip comes at a time of rising tensions between Japan and China over islands in, and airspace over, the East China Sea that provoked U.S. diplomatic protests to Beijing during the weekend.
The U.S. is a major power in the region "and we are here to stay," said an official who briefed reporters Wednesday about the messages Biden will be carrying.
He will also reassure Japan and South Korea that the U.S. will always be there for its allies, officials said.
The U.S. military flew two aircraft in the vicinity of the Senkaku islands early Tuesday, crossing a zone over international waters that China days earlier had unilaterally declared it would police.
China threatened there could be consequences if it is not given advance notice of overflights.
Although the Pentagon did not give advance notice and said the flyover was a routine, long-planned training mission, the message from Washington was clear.
There is a "legitimate interest by the United States as well as the international community" in keeping international airspace open, officials said.
"There is a need for China to clarify its intentions and to answer a number of questions that this move generates ... both as a civil aviation matter but also as a strategic matter," an official said.
Biden's high level visit to Beijing will allow him to make a "broader point (about) an emerging pattern of behavior," the official said.