- China says monitored U.S. bombers' flight through airspace zone
- Merkel and SPD in breakthrough on coalition talks, conservatives say
- Defying China, U.S. bombers fly into East China Sea zone
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Defence Ministry said on Wednesday it had monitored the entire progress of two unarmed U.S. B-52 bombers that flew over disputed islands in the East China Sea on a training mission without informing Beijing.
The U.S. move was in defiance of China's declaration of a new airspace defence zone, and raised the stakes in a territorial standoff.
"The Chinese air force monitored the entire course and identified (them) in a timely way, ascertaining that they were U.S. aircraft," the ministry said in a statement on its website.
"The Chinese side has the ability to effectively manage and control the relevant airspace," it added.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Hui Li)
BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) made a breakthrough early on Wednesday in talks about forming a "grand coalition" government, two top conservative politicians said on their Twitter accounts.
Germany's two biggest political forces negotiated through the night and reached a breakthrough at about 5 a.m. (0400 GMT), said senior Merkel lawmaker Michael Grosse-Broemer and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the conservative premier of Saarland state.
Two months after Merkel's election victory and a month after coalition talks began, the agreement, if confirmed, would enable her to form a government by Christmas - if the SPD gets approval in a vote among more than 474,000 party members.
The party leaders are expected to present details of a deal at a news conference on Wednesday, the deadline set by Merkel. But they may wait two more weeks to announce the allocation of cabinet posts.
(Reporting by Stephen Brown, Erik Kirschbaum and Andreas Rinke)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two U.S. military aircraft have flown around disputed islands in the East China Sea without informing China, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, defying China's declaration that the region falls into a new airspace defense zone.
"We have conducted operations in the area of the Senkakus. We have continued to follow our normal procedures, which include not filing flight plans, not radioing ahead and not registering our frequencies," spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said, using the Japanese name for the islands.
There was no Chinese response, Warren said.
China published coordinates for an "East China Sea Air Defence Identification Zone" over the weekend and warned it would take "defensive emergency measures" against aircraft that failed to identify themselves properly in the airspace.
The zone covers most of that sea and includes the skies over islands at the heart of a territorial dispute with Japan.
The United States and close ally Japan have sharply criticized the move, with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel calling it a "destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo in the region." He said on Saturday the United States would not change how it operates in the region.
The White House said that the dispute between China and Japan over the islands should be solved diplomatically.
"The policy announced by the Chinese over the weekend is unnecessarily inflammatory," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in California, where President Barack Obama is traveling.
"These are the kinds of differences that should not be addressed with threats or inflammatory language, but rather can and should be resolved diplomatically," he said.
Experts said the Chinese move was aimed at chipping away at Tokyo's claim to administrative control over the area, including the tiny uninhabited islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.
While Washington does not take a position on the sovereignty of the islands, it recognizes that Japan has administrative control over them and is therefore bound by treaty to defend Japan in the event of an armed conflict.
The Pentagon said the flights took place on Monday evening Eastern Standard Time and "involved two aircraft flying from Guam and returning to Guam" on a training mission.
Warren said the U.S. military aircraft were neither observed nor were contacted by the Chinese aircraft.
China's Defence Ministry said on Monday it had lodged protests with the U.S. and Japanese embassies in Beijing over the criticism from Washington and Tokyo of the zone.
China also summoned Japan's ambassador, warning Tokyo to "stop (their) words and actions which create friction and harm regional stability", China's Foreign Ministry said. Meanwhile, Tokyo and Seoul summoned Chinese diplomats to protest.
In addition, China sent its sole aircraft carrier on a training mission into the South China Sea on Tuesday amid maritime disputes with the Philippines and other neighbors and tension over its airspace defense zone in waters disputed with Japan.
The Liaoning, bought used from Ukraine and refurbished in China, has conducted more than 100 exercises and experiments since it was commissioned last year but this is the first time it has been sent to the South China Sea.
The Liaoning left port from the northern city of Qingdao accompanied by two destroyers and two frigates, the Chinese navy said on an official news website.
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