TOKYO (AP) - In what was supposed to be a warm reunion, Vice President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet instead Wednesday in a climate fraught with tension over an airspace dispute that has put Asia on edge. A day before seeing Xi, Biden stood in Japan and publicly rebuked China for trying to enforce its will on its neighbors, escalating the risk of a potentially dangerous accident.
Although Biden had hoped to focus on areas of cooperation as the U.S. seeks an expanded Asia footprint, China's declaration of a new air defense zone above disputed islands in the East China Sea has pitted the U.S. and China against each other, creating a wide gulf that Biden will seek to bridge during his two-day trip to Beijing.
Despite Washington's preference not to get involved in a territorial spat, concerns that China's action could portend a broader effort to assert its dominance in the region has drawn in the U.S., putting Biden in the middle as he jets from Japan to China to South Korea on a weeklong tour of Asia.
"We, the United States, are deeply concerned by the attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in the East China Sea," Biden said after meeting in Tokyo on Tuesday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. "This action has raised regional tensions and increased the risk of accidents and miscalculation."
To that end, Biden said he would raise those concerns with China's leaders "with great specificity" during his Beijing visit.