Julie Bishop defend criticism of China

AS THE Abbott Government begins a slow recovery from the spying spat with Indonesia, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has defended her criticism of a Chinese move to take control of airspace in the East China Sea.

The Chinese government last week declared airspace above islands in the sea an "air defence identification zone", demanding other countries notify China before flying through the area.

But the United States promptly sent two B52 bombers through the area, in apparent disregard for the edict, which challenges US ally Japan's claims to the islands.

The islands in the area are embroiled in a long-running dispute between Beijing and Japan, both of which claim control over them.

But Ms Bishop said earlier this week China's declaration was unhelpful and would only add to the tensions that already exist.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman then released a statement hitting out Ms Bishop's comments, labelling them irresponsible, and urging Australia to "correct its mistakes".

Ms Bishop responded on Thursday, saying that while China was Australia's main trading partner, it was appropriate that both sides of the relationship "be able to raise concerns".

She told ABC that Australia had a "key interest" in ensuring stability in the region, and she would have done the same if any other country had "done something similarly".

But Ms Bishop, who will be a key player in negotiating a free trade agreement with the Chinese over the next 12 months, said she did not think the row would affect the talks.

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