Iran Releases Joint Plan of Action Agreed To At Geneva

[SEE:  White House Fact Sheet On Iran Nuclear Deal ]


Joint Plan of Action

Geneva, 24 November 2013




The goal for these negotiations is to reach a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful. Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons. This comprehensive solution would build on these initial measures and result in a final step for a period to be agreed upon and the resolution of concerns. This comprehensive solution would enable Iran to fully enjoy its right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes under the relevant articles of the NPT in conformity with its obligations therein. This comprehensive solution would involve a mutually defined enrichment programme with practical limits and transparency measures to ensure the peaceful nature of the programme. This comprehensive solution would constitute an integrated whole where nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. This comprehensive solution would involve a reciprocal, step-bystep process, and would produce the comprehensive lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions, as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme.


There would be additional steps in between the initial measures and the final step, including, among other things, addressing the UN Security Council resolutions, with a view toward bringing to a satisfactory conclusion the UN Security Council’s consideration of this matter. The E3+3 and Iran will be responsible for conclusion and implementation of mutual near-term measures and the comprehensive solution in good faith. A Joint Commission of E3/EU+3 and Iran will be established to monitor the implementation of the near-term measures and address issues that may arise, with the IAEA responsible for verification of nuclear-related measures. The Joint Commission will work with the IAEA to facilitate resolution of past and present issues of concern.


Elements of a first step The first step would be time-bound, with a duration of 6 months, and renewable by mutual consent, during which all parties will work to maintain a constructive atmosphere for negotiations in good faith. Iran would undertake the following voluntary measures:


• From the existing uranium enriched to 20%, retain half as working stock of 20% oxide for fabrication of fuel for the TRR. Dilute the remaining 20% UF6 to no more than 5%. No reconversion line.


• Iran announces that it will not enrich uranium over 5% for the duration of the 6 months.


• Iran announces that it will not make any further advances of its activities at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant1, Fordow2, or the Arak reactor3, designated by the IAEA as IR-40.


• Beginning when the line for conversion of UF6 enriched up to 5% to UO2 is ready, Iran has decided to convert to oxide UF6 newly enriched up to 5% during the 6 month period, as provided in the operational schedule of the conversion plant declared to the IAEA.


• No new locations for the enrichment.


• Iran will continue its safeguarded R&D practices, including its current enrichment R&D practices, which are not designed for accumulation of the enriched uranium.


• No reprocessing or construction of a facility capable of reprocessing.


• Enhanced monitoring:


o Provision of specified information to the IAEA, including information on Iran’s plans for nuclear facilities, a description of each building on each nuclear site, a description of the scale of operations for each location engaged in specified nuclear activities, information on uranium mines and mills, and information on source material. This information would be provided within three months of the adoption of these measures.


o Submission of an updated DIQ for the reactor at Arak, designated by the IAEA as the IR-40, to the IAEA.


o Steps to agree with the IAEA on conclusion of the Safeguards Approach for the reactor at Arak, designated by the IAEA as the IR-40.


o Daily IAEA inspector access when inspectors are not present for the purpose of Design Information Verification, Interim Inventory Verification, Physical Inventory Verification, and unannounced inspections, for the purpose of access to offline surveillance records, at Fordow and Natanz.


o IAEA inspector managed access to:


  centrifuge assembly workshops4;


  centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities; and,   uranium mines and mills.







1 Namely, during the 6 months, Iran will not feed UF6 into the centrifuges installed but not enriching uranium. Not install additional centrifuges. Iran announces that during the first 6 months, it will replace existing centrifuges with centrifuges of the same type.


2 At Fordow, no further enrichment over 5% at 4 cascades now enriching uranium, and not increase enrichment capacity. Not


feed UF6 into the other 12 cascades, which would remain in a non-operative state. No interconnections between cascades.


Iran announces that during the first 6 months, it will replace existing centrifuges with centrifuges of the same type.


3 Iran announces on concerns related to the construction of the reactor at Arak that for 6 months it will not commission the reactor or transfer fuel or heavy water to the reactor site and will not test additional fuel or produce more fuel for the reactor or install remaining components.


4 Consistent with its plans, Iran’s centrifuge production during the 6 months will be dedicated to replace damaged machines.


In return, the E3/EU+3 would undertake the following voluntary measures:


• Pause efforts to further reduce Iran’s crude oil sales, enabling Iran’s current customers to purchase their current average amounts of crude oil. Enable the repatriation of an agreed amount of revenue held abroad. For such oil sales, suspend the EU and U.S. sanctions on associated insurance and transportation services.


• Suspend U.S. and EU sanctions on:


o Iran’s petrochemical exports, as well as sanctions on associated services.5 o Gold and precious metals, as well as sanctions on associated services.


• Suspend U.S. sanctions on Iran’s auto industry, as well as sanctions on associated services.


• License the supply and installation in Iran of spare parts for safety of flight for Iranian civil aviation and associated services. License safety related inspections and repairs in Iran as well as associated services.6


• No new nuclear-related UN Security Council sanctions.


• No new EU nuclear-related sanctions.


• The U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the


Congress, will refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.


• Establish a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian trade for Iran’s domestic needs using Iranian oil revenues held abroad. Humanitarian trade would be defined as transactions involving food and agricultural products, medicine, medical devices, and medical expenses incurred abroad. This channel would involve specified foreign banks and non-designated Iranian banks to be defined when establishing the channel.


o This channel could also enable:


  transactions required to pay Iran’s UN obligations; and,   direct tuition payments to universities and colleges for Iranian students studying abroad, up to an agreed amount for the six month period.


• Increase the EU authorisation thresholds for transactions for non-sanctioned trade to an agreed amount.







5 “Sanctions on associated services” means any service, such as insurance, transportation, or financial, subject to the underlying U.S. or EU sanctions applicable, insofar as each service is related to the underlying sanction and required to facilitate the desired transactions. These services could involve any non-designated Iranian entities.


6 Sanctions relief could involve any non-designated Iranian airlines as well as Iran Air.


Elements of the final step of a comprehensive solution*


The final step of a comprehensive solution, which the parties aim to conclude negotiating and commence implementing no more than one year after the adoption of this document, would:


• Have a specified long-term duration to be agreed upon.


• Reflect the rights and obligations of parties to the NPT and IAEA Safeguards Agreements.


• Comprehensively lift UN Security Council, multilateral and national nuclear-related sanctions, including steps on access in areas of trade, technology, finance, and energy, on a schedule to be agreed upon.


• Involve a mutually defined enrichment programme with mutually agreed parameters consistent with practical needs, with agreed limits on scope and level of enrichment activities, capacity, where it is carried out, and stocks of enriched uranium, for a period to be agreed upon.


• Fully resolve concerns related to the reactor at Arak, designated by the IAEA as the IR-40.


No reprocessing or construction of a facility capable of reprocessing.


• Fully implement the agreed transparency measures and enhanced monitoring. Ratify and implement the Additional Protocol, consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Majlis (Iranian parliament).


• Include international civil nuclear cooperation, including among others, on acquiring modern light water power and research reactors and associated equipment, and the supply of modern nuclear fuel as well as agreed R&D practices.


Following successful implementation of the final step of the comprehensive solution for its full duration, the Iranian nuclear programme will be treated in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT.


* With respect to the final step and any steps in between, the standard principle that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” applies.

American B-52s Taunt Chinese Rights In China Sea Standoff

[The route was from Guam to Okinawa, where US and Japanese Navies conducted exercises, then northerly, until crossing the tip of the announced zone.  The approx. course given may not have crossed into the zone at all, but we will never the know for sure (SEE: China creates air defence zone over Japan-controlled islands).]


China asserts control over air zone despite US B-52 bombers


times of india


China asserts control over air zone despite US B-52 bombers
China calls the disputed islands Diaoyus while Japan terms them as Senkakus.
BEIJING: China on Wednesday asserted that it has enough “will and ability” to enforce its unilaterally declared new air defence zone over disputed islands in the East China Sea after two US B-52 bombers challenged Chinese authority over the controversial airspace.Putting up a brave face, China’s defence ministry said it “detected, identified and monitored” the flight of the giant long-range Stratofortress planes that flew the zone between two different times on Tuesday night.

“The Chinese government has the will and ability to defend our national sovereignty and security,” foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a press briefing.

“We also have the ability to exercise effective control over the East Sea air defence identification zone,” he said.

Defence ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said the US aircraft skirted along the border of the zone and flew in the north-south direction, 200 kilometres east of Diaoyu Island.

China calls the disputed islands Diaoyus while Japan terms them as Senkakus.

Under the rules of the new air zone, all aircraft including the civilian flights have to report their flight plans to China, must maintain the two-way radio communications and respond in a timely and accurate manner to identification inquires.

Those that do not comply can face “defencive emergency measures”, Beijing said.

The US along with Japan refused to accept the zone announced by China over the disputed islands administered by Japan.

The Pentagon said it did not comply with Beijing’s controversial demand for aircraft to file flight plans when traversing the East China Sea area.

US Colonel Steve Warren at the Pentagon said Washington had “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,” Warren said.

China’s defence spokesman Geng said: “The Chinese military monitored the entire process, carried out identification in a timely manner, and ascertained the type of US aircraft.

“We need to stress that China will identify every aircraft flying in the air defence identification zone according to the country’s announcement of aircraft identification rules for the air defence identification zone.”

“If [Coalition Forces] leave, the [Afghan] economy will collapse dramatically.”

[The following blurb is all that remains of this CBS report, – Afghan business owners see bleak future.  It was released five hours ago and pulled shortly thereafter.  The main point of the report is contained in the quote from local tour driver/owner, Muqim Jamshady.  Afghanistan’s current economy is totally American-made…pull Western aid, and pull the rug out from under this artificial Pentagon-based economy.

Grow-up, CBS!]

(CBS News) KABUL – The current economy “has no foundation,” he says. “Much depends on the coalition forces. If they leave, the economy will collapse dramatically.”— “Afghan business owners see bleak future

Muqim Jamshady

Muqim Jamshady


By the end of 2014, the international military forces who have tried to secure Afghanistan for more than a decade will leave the country, and as they go, so too will many of the business opportunities granted by their presence. “The current economy is artificial,” Muqim Jamshady tells CBS News in his suburban Kabul home. Jamshady started his own company, Afghan Logistics, shortly after the Taliban regime was ousted almost 11 years ago. The current economy “has no foundation,” he says. “Much depends on the coalition forces. If they leave, the economy will collapse dramatically.”

by Shakeela Abrahimkhail


On the last day of the Loya Jirga in Kabul, on Sunday, the gathering’s Chairman, Sebghatullah Mujadadi, said that if President Hamid Karzai did not follow the Jirga’s recommendation to sign the Kabul-Washington security pact, then he would flee Afghanistan.

Mujadadi’s comments come at a time when many are anxious about the next few years in Afghanistan, with the NATO coalition withdrawing in 2014 and the country’s first potential democratic transition of Presidential power lying around the corner in April.

In recent weeks, Afghanistan has been consumed by debate over the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), which would ensure a close military partnership between the U.S. and Afghanistan post-2014.

The Loya Jirga on Sunday voted to approve the BSA, which will now be forwarded on to both houses of the National Assembly for formal ratification.

“We want to sign this agreement and it must be signed,” Mujadadi said on Sunday. “This is something that we cannot give up. For now, the President should promise us that he will sign the agreement soon and as far as our experience, knowledge and Islamic law shows, Inshallah this agreement is in our favor.”

On Thursday, during is opening speech at the Jirga, President Karzai said he would not sign the accord – even if it was approved by the Jirga and Parliament – until after the spring Presidential elections.

However, U.S. officials have demanded the pact be finalized before the end of the year.

Mujadadi assured TOLOnews that if the BSA was not signed, then he would leave Afghanistan

“We request for this agreement to be signed soon and if President Karza does not sign, then I promise you that, though I have been a servant to this nation for the past thirty five years, I will resign,” Mujadadi said. “I will resign from everything and will emigrate from this country and will say that I have fled the bad policies of our government.”

Many have argued the BSA is essential to Afghanistan’s future stability and progress.

And if the agreement is not lived-up to by the U.S., Mujadadi said the Jirga would be responsible.

“If our friends the Americans deny any article of the agreement, then we, the nation will be the ones to answer.”

Many experts have argued the Jirga is more in Afghanistan’s interest than the U.S., which is war-weary after 12 years of combat.

Anti-Nuke Protesters Charged for Bombing Near Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant

[According to the latest reports, there were three bombs set, the third one detonated while being put together.]

Anti-nuke protesters booked in connection with explosion

The Hindu



  • People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) convenor S.P. Udhayakumar. File photo.
    PTI People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) convenor S.P. Udhayakumar. File photo.

Police have booked anti-nuclear protesters including S.P. Uthayakumar in connection with the explosion at a village near Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in which six persons including three children were killed.

Mr. Uthayakumar, head of the anti-nuclear People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, his associates Pushparayan, Mukilan and ‘others’ have been booked under different sections of IPC and Explosive Substances Act, top police sources said.

They have been booked for offences including culpable homicide not amounting to murder and criminal conspiracy among others, the sources said.

PMANE is spearheading the protests against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tirunelveli.

A country-made bomb had gone off “accidentally” when some miscreants were making the explosive in their hut at around 6.40 pm in Idinathakarai Tsunami colony on Tuesday, about 15 km from the Kudankulam nuclear power plant.

Among the dead were a woman and three children who were all aged below five. Two persons were injured in the incident.

The plant was however running safe, DAE officials had said.


Police have booked anti-nuclear protesters including S.P. Uthayakumar in connection with the explosion at a village near Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in which six persons including three children were killed.

Mr. Uthayakumar, head of the anti-nuclear People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, his associates Pushparayan, Mukilan and ‘others’ have been booked under different sections of IPC and Explosive Substances Act, top police sources said.

They have been booked for offences including culpable homicide not amounting to murder and criminal conspiracy among others, the sources said.

PMANE is spearheading the protests against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tirunelveli.

A country-made bomb had gone off “accidentally” when some miscreants were making the explosive in their hut at around 6.40 pm in Idinathakarai Tsunami colony on Tuesday, about 15 km from the Kudankulam nuclear power plant.

Among the dead were a woman and three children who were all aged below five. Two persons were injured in the incident.

The plant was however running safe, DAE officials had said.

Blast near Indian nuclear plant kills six

NEW DELHI: A crude bomb has exploded near a nuclear plant in southern India, killing six people and seriously injuring three others, including an anti-nuclear activist whom police say is a suspect.

Police say the Russian-built Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu state is unaffected and operating as normal.

Local residents have protested for years against the plant over fears an accident could create a health hazard.

Police say the bomb that exploded Tuesday night likely went off accidentally as suspected activists were making several crude explosive devices in a house about 15 kilometers from the plant.

Superintendent Vijayendra Bidari says police recovered two unexploded bombs, but have yet to question the injured suspect who is receiving treatment for serious injuries.

Witnesses Confirming the Brainwashing (Reprogramming) Initiative At Guantanamo

File photo of Mehsud, a former Guantanamo Bay inmate, talking on a radio at an undisclosed location in the tribal region near Afghan border

[Many researchers and analysts have long ago come to the conclusion that Abdullah Mehsud switched sides after his long visit at Guantanamo.  Whether the changes which were induced in Mehsud (and in other Guantanamo and Bagram Prison parolees) by the special attention that he received in Cuba were the result of bribery or brainwashing, Abdullah Mehsud was thereafter, a Pakistani terrorist fighting against Pakistan.  He was released in Afghanistan, where he joined-up with an unknown number of Tahir Yuldashev‘s IMU terrorists.  This was the original core group which trained many of the Tehreek Taliban Pakistan terrorists. 

Abdullah joined hands with cousin Baitullah Mehsud, a man who could easily be bought, to later be reinforced by Afghan legend Mullah Dadullah.  This line of succession directly confirms the American Creation of the Pakistani Taliban terrorist group.  These groups merged with the homegrown Taliban, trained by the Pakistani ISI.  Both groups staged terrorist attacks throughout FATA, but the really shameful bombings of Shia funerals and mosques was largely the handiwork of the Mehsud faction (SEE: Arresting Taliban To Cover America’s Ass).]

abdullahmehsudnov2004chzp1 Abdullah Mehsud

Penny Lane: Secret CIA Guantanamo Facility Trained Prisoners To Be Double Agents



WASHINGTON (AP) — In the early years after 9/11, the CIA turned some Guantanamo Bay prisoners into double agents then sent them home to help the U.S. kill terrorists, current and former U.S. officials said.

The CIA promised the prisoners freedom, safety for their families and millions of dollars from the agency’s secret accounts.

It was a risky gamble. Officials knew there was a chance that some prisoners might quickly spurn their deal and kill Americans.

For the CIA, that was an acceptable risk in a dangerous business. For the American public, which was never told, the program was one of the many secret trade-offs the government made on its behalf. At the same time the government used the risk of terrorism to justify imprisoning people indefinitely, it was releasing dangerous people from prison to work for the CIA.

The program was carried out in a secret facility built a few hundred yards from the administrative offices of the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The eight small cottages were hidden behind a ridge covered in thick scrub and cactus.

The program and the handful of men who passed through these cottages had various official CIA code names.

But those who were aware of the cluster of cottages knew it best by its sobriquet: Penny Lane.

It was a nod to the classic Beatles song and a riff on the CIA’s other secret facility at Guantanamo Bay, a prison known as Strawberry Fields.

Nearly a dozen current and former U.S officials described aspects of the program to The Associated Press. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the secret program publicly by name, even though it ended in about 2006.

Some of the men who passed through Penny Lane helped the CIA find and kill many top al-Qaida operatives, current and former U.S. officials said. Others stopped providing useful information and the CIA lost touch with them.

When prisoners began streaming into Guantanamo Bay in January 2002, the CIA recognized it as an unprecedented opportunity to identify sources. That year, 632 detainees arrived at the detention center. The following year 117 more arrived.

“Of course that would be an objective,” said Emile Nakhleh, a former top CIA analyst who spent time in 2002 assessing detainees but who did not discuss Penny Lane. “It’s the job of intelligence to recruit sources.”

By early 2003, Penny Lane was open for business.

Candidates were ushered from the confines of prison to Penny Lane’s relative hominess, officials said. The cottages had private kitchens, showers and televisions. Each had a small patio.

Some prisoners asked for and received pornography. One official said the biggest luxury in each cottage was the bed — not a military-issued cot but a real bed with a mattress.

The cottages were designed to feel more like hotel rooms than prison cells, and some CIA officials jokingly referred to them collectively as the Marriott.

Current and former officials said dozens of prisoners were evaluated but only a handful, from a variety of countries, were turned into spies who signed agreements to work for the CIA.

CIA spokesman Dean Boyd declined to comment.

The U.S. government says it has confirmed that about 16 percent of former Guantanamo Bay detainees rejoined the fight against America. Officials suspect but have not confirmed that 12 percent more rejoined.

It’s not clear whether the men from Penny Lane are included in those figures. But because only a small number of people went through the program, it would not likely change the figures significantly either way. None of the officials interviewed by the AP knew of an instance in which any double agent killed Americans.

Though the number of double agents recruited through Penny Lane was small, the program was significant enough to draw keen attention from President George W. Bush, one former official said. Bush personally interviewed a junior CIA case officer who had just returned home from Afghanistan, where the agency typically met with the agents.

President Barack Obama took an interest the program for a different reason. Shortly after taking office in 2009, he ordered a review of the former detainees working as double agents because they were providing information used in Predator drone strikes, one of the officials said.

Infiltrating al-Qaida has been one of the CIA’s most sought-after but difficult goals, something that other foreign intelligence services have only occasionally accomplished. Candidates for Penny Lane needed legitimate terrorist connections. To be valuable to the CIA, the men had to be able to reconnect with al-Qaida.

From the Bush administration descriptions of Guantanamo Bay prisoners at the time, the CIA would have seemingly had a large pool to draw from. Vice President Dick Cheney called the prisoners “the worst of a very bad lot.” Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said they were “among the most dangerous, best trained, vicious killers on the face of the Earth.”

In reality, many were held on flimsy evidence and were of little use to the CIA.

While the agency looked for viable candidates, those with no terrorism ties sat in limbo. It would take years before the majority of detainees were set free, having never been charged. Of the 779 people who were taken to Guantanamo Bay, more than three-fourths have been released, mostly during the Bush administration.

Many others remain at Guantanamo Bay, having been cleared for release by the military but with no hope for freedom in sight.

“I do see the irony on the surface of letting some really very bad guys go,” said David Remes, an American lawyer who has represented about a dozen Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo.

But Remes, who was not aware of Penny Lane, said he understands its attraction.

“The men we were sending back as agents were thought to be able to provide value to us,” he said.

Prisoners agreed to cooperate for a variety of reasons, officials said. Some received assurances that the U.S. would resettle their families. Another thought al-Qaida had perverted Islam and believed it was his duty as a Muslim to help the CIA destroy it. One detainee agreed to cooperate after the CIA insinuated it would harm his children, a former official said, similar to the threats interrogators had made to admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

All were promised money. Exactly how much each was paid remains unclear. But altogether, the government paid millions of dollars for their services, officials said. The money came from a secret CIA account, codenamed Pledge, that’s used to pay informants, officials said.

The arrangement led to strategic discussions inside the CIA: If the agency’s drones had a shot at Osama bin Laden or his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, would officials take the shot if it meant killing a double agent on the American payroll?

It never came to that.

The biggest fear, former officials involved with the program recalled, was that a former detainee would attack Americans then publicly announce that he had been on the CIA payroll.

Al-Qaida suspected the CIA would attempt a program like this and its operatives have been very suspicious of former Guantanamo Bay detainees, intelligence officials and experts said.

In one case, a former official recalled, al-Qaida came close to discovering one of the double agents in its midst.

The U.S. government had such high hopes for Penny Lane that one former intelligence official recalled discussions about whether to secretly release a pair of Pakistani men into the United States on student or business visas. The hope was that they would connect with al-Qaida and lead authorities to members of a U.S. cell.

Another former senior intelligence official said that never happened.

Officials said the program ended in 2006, as the flow of detainees to Guantanamo Bay slowed to a trickle. The last prisoner arrived there in 2008.

Penny Lane still stands and can be seen in satellite photos. A dirt road winds its way to a clearing. The special detachment of Marines that once provided security is gone. The complex is surrounded by two fences and hidden among the trees and shrubs of Guantanamo Bay.

It has long been abandoned.


Associated Press writer Ben Fox in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report

US Flies B-52 Bombers Into China’s Air Defence Zone

[SEE: China creates air defence zone over Japan-controlled islands ]

U.S. sends B-52s over China-claimed waters


Japan and the USA will challenge China’s claim to a stretch of the ocean during military exercises this week.

NAHA, OKINAWA, Japan — An American carrier battle group and a flotilla of Japanese warships will arrive Wednesday near a vast stretch of ocean claimed by China in what is shaping up as a test of how Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the USA will stand up to the challenge.

The joint U.S.-Japan exercises in the sea are a direct challenge to China’s claim. On Tuesday, the U.S. military said two Air Force B-52 bombers flew over the sea without notifying Beijing despite China’s demand that it be told if anyone plans to fly military aircraft over its self-claimed “air defense zone.”

The aircraft took off from Guam on Monday, part of a regular exercise, said a U.S. defense official who spoke to AFP news service on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to divulge the information.

China has been laying claim to nearly 1 million square miles of ocean known as the East China Sea, insisting that the sea’s energy resources and fisheries belong to China. Much of the ocean territory it claims is hundreds of miles from its shore, including waters off the coasts of Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

On Saturday China went further than ever, announcing it had designated much of the sea as an air defense zone it controls. The zone includes the Japan-held Senkaku Islands, a string of uninhabited islets that China calls the Diaoyus. The Chinese Defense Ministry said the zone was created to “guard against potential air threats.”

“China has been pushing and testing Abe since he took office and for the most part he has been passing,” said Brad Glosserman, executive director of the Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Honolulu.

“This is a very dumb, very risky move by China,” he said. “If the People’s Liberation Army tries to interfere (with the U.S.-Japan exercise), there will be real problems.”

The challenge represents a test for Abe, a conservative party prime minister elected in 2012 who has vowed to shift Japan’s deferential military posture to a more muscular stance that recognizes its right to defend itself.

On Tuesday, Abe directly confronted China, stating he would not recognize the Chinese air zone over the East China Sea or any of its claims to the Senkakus.

“We will take steps against any attempt to change the status quo by use of force as we are determined to defend the country’s sea and airspace,” Abe said.

For the United States’ part, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Chinese action represents a “destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo” and “will not in any way change how the United States conducts military operations in the region.”

To that end, the U.S. Navy arrived in force Tuesday off the coast of Japan for a complex exercise in which Japanese naval ships and U.S. fighter jets, warships and submarines will practice scenarios for a possible attack on Japan.

Sailing into the waters southeast of Okinawa on Tuesday to prepare for a long-planned exercise was the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam, guided-missile destroyers USS Curtis Wilbur, USS Lassen, USS McCampbell, USS Mustin, maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft and a Navy submarine.

China issued a protest with Japan and the U.S. government over the exercises and opposition to China’s self-claimed right to an air defense zone over the sea. Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said Japan’s complaint about the zone is “absolutely groundless and unacceptable,” according to Japan’s Kyodo news service.

Yang said Japan has “no right to make irresponsible remarks” on the sea’s airspace, portions of which have been jointly administered by Japan and the United States for decades. Yujun also urged the United States to “not take sides.”

Earlier this year, Japan scrambled fighter jets when Chinese planes flew near the Senkaku islands, a rich fishing ground annexed by Japan in 1895 and purchased by the legislature in 2012. Chinese interceptor aircraft conducted the first flights into the zone after it went into force at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

The Chinese moves have inflamed Japan and worried other nations that say they may now need to inform China when their commercial flights are heading over the East China Sea. It also has U.S. allies concerned that China is becoming more aggressive against them since the installation a year ago of Xi Jinping as leader of the Communist regime.

But Hagel reaffirmed the U.S. military commitment to the 1952 U.S.-Japan Mutual Defense Treaty that commits Washington to intervene in defense of Japan if there is an attack on Japanese-administered territory. And Abe has backed up his belief that Japan must modify its stance held since World War II that Japan’s defense can be outsourced entirely to the United States.

Abe has been pressing for Japan to raise its readiness and play a bigger role in global security since he came to power in December 2012 and won a majority for his Liberal Democratic Party in the upper house of the Japan legislature in July.

Defense spending in Japan has seen its largest increase in 22 years, says Kyodo. The spending has zeroed in on boosting Japan’s capabilities to defend against amphibious assaults.

But Abe has yet to garner the votes to change Japan’s constitution so its defense forces can project the full military powers of a sovereign state. The constitution, written by the U.S. military after the defeat of Japan in WWII, restrains what Japan can do militarily.

The U.S. military retains bases in Japan, primarily in Okinawa, and exercises between the two militaries have grown in size and complexity in recent years.

Although precise locations have not been announced for the latest exercise, specific training events — which will include land-based patrol planes and other aircraft — are supposed to take place across large stretches of Japanese and international airspace, including parts of the East China Sea.

China’s Ministry of National Defense announced that any foreign aircraft entering its newly drafted “East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone” must file a flight plan with Chinese authorities, stay in two-way radio contact and follow other instructions.

Failure to do so will result in “defensive emergency measures” by China’s armed forces, according to the statement.

It is not clear why China chose to announce the new air restrictions now, said Narushige Michishita, Director of the Security and International Studies Program at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo. Whether Jinping approved of it or the military demanded it is unknown, Michishita said.

“It is a scary scenario,” Michishita said. “What happens next is up to China.”