US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday warned China against unilateral moves to set up a new air defence zone, saying such a step could threaten regional stability at a time of heightened tensions.
After a day of talks with senior Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Kerry stressed that he had also highlighted the need to ease concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions.
The top US diplomat's trip comes at a pivotal moment for the region, with flaring disputes between Beijing and Tokyo over their World War II history and disputed islands in the East China Sea sending relations between the Asian powers plummeting to their lowest point in recent years.
The issue of North Korea was also high on the agenda, with both sides putting specific ideas on the table for how to prod Beijing's belligerent ally to take concrete steps towards denuclearisation.
Washington was deeply angered when Beijing last year declared an air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea which includes the disputed islands, saying it could lead to confusion high in the skies.
Kerry told reporters he had warned Beijing against any further such moves, amid reports that China is considering a similar ADIZ over the South China Sea, where it has competing claims with several countries including US allies.
"We've made it very clear that a unilateral, unannounced, unprocessed initiative like that can be very challenging to certain people in the region, and therefore to regional stability," Kerry stressed.