Japan, ASEAN call for freedom of seas and skies, peaceful dispute resolution

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan and Southeast Asian nations called on Saturday for freedom of the high seas and skies, amid heightened tensions over China's new air defense zone in the East China Sea. The statement, issued at a regional summit in Tokyo, also called for disputes to be resolved by peaceful means. China's recent announcement of an air defense zone over islands in the East China Sea, which are claimed by both Tokyo and Beijing, triggered protests from Japan, United States and South Korea. China is also locked in territorial rows with other Asian nations over wide swathes of the South China Sea, including waters claimed by several members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Beijing has said it might set up a similar air defense zone there as well. U.S. and Chinese warships narrowly avoid collision in South China Sea last week, the U.S. Pacific Fleet said in a statement on Friday. (Reporting by Elaine Lees; Editing by Michael Perry)