In a move designed to challenge China's "air defense zone," the US flew two B-52 Bombers over disputed islands in the East China Sea just days after Beijing implicitly threatened to shoot down aircraft entering the area.
Over the weekend, China released a map which included the clustered Senkaku islands and warned that all aircraft entering the zone must immediately identify themselves to Chinese authorities and face "emergency military measures."
However, the US flew two B-52 bombers through the zone during a training mission today without notifying Beijing. There was no response from China. In conducting the mission, the Pentagon followed through on its promise that US pilots would not switch on their transponders and would defend themselves if attacked.
"We have continued to follow our normal procedures, which include not filing flight plans, not radioing ahead and not registering our frequencies," said US Colonel Steve Warren.
Although the B-52 flyover was part of a pre-planned exercise, it has been characterized as a clear act of defiance against China's territorial claims.
Japan responded to the Chinese threat by accusing Beijing of engaging in "profoundly dangerous acts that unilaterally change the status quo," adding that the defense zone was "not valid at all."
According to the Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the escalating crisis represents a "watershed moment for the world" and means "Asia is on the cusp of a full-blown arms race."
"Even if the immediate crisis can be defused, we are clearly sliding into a new Cold War," writes Evans-Pritchard, adding, "One misjudgment by either side in the East China Sea could change our world entirely. If you are not concerned, perhaps you should be."