US Vice President Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on August 29, 2013.  - 

Vice President Biden is in Tokyo today -- the first stop of a week-long Asian tour.

Little did he know when he planned this trip that he'd be walking into the middle of a spat between the world's third and second largest economies (China and Japan) over China's newly declared air defense identification zone. Beijing is warning that it'll take defensive action in the zone, which covers a big part of the East China Sea that both Japan and South Korea also lay claim to.

But why would China pick now to do this, knowing that Vice President Biden was coming and that the Japanese wouldn’t like it. Schmitz says it all circles back to President  Xi Jinping’s agenda to push the "Chinese Dream".

“Part of that dream is to be seen and treated by the international community as a global power” said Marketplace's China Bureau Chief Rob Schmitz.

Schmitz explained that ever since the 1960s Japan has had a similar air defense zone in the East China Sea.  One point the Chinese made when they announced their zone is that it’s zone would be as close to Japan’s shores as Japan’s zone is to China’s.

“So they’re saying ‘look if the world’s third largest economy can have air defense zone that comes right up to our territories then we can too’ said Schmitz. 

China Bureau Chief Rob Schmitz spoke to Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal from Shanghai.

Follow Rob Schmitz at @rob_schmitz