Monday, November 25, 2013

China's Air Defense Zone Announcement Angers and Alarms Japan

Crisis in the Making

Disputed islands in overlapping air defense zones.

Overshadowed by the Iran nuclear agreement news, China on Saturday announced an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that overlaps Japan's own ADIZ and includes islands controlled by Japan but claimed by China. The islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Daioyu in China, are uninhabited, but surrounded by rich fishing grounds and potential energy deposits.

In the Chinese statement, which appeared on a defense ministry website, Beijing said the new rules were effective immediately.

The United States was quick to react. The White House, State Department and Pentagon all issued statements late Saturday, hours after Beijing threatened to take "defensive emergency measures" against aircraft entering its newly-proclaimed ADIZ. The Chinese edict called on all aircraft to identify themselves before entering the zone, and to obey all orders from Beijing.

The press statement by Secretary of State John Kerry appears below.

The United States is deeply concerned about China's announcement that they've established an "East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone." This unilateral action constitutes an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea. Escalatory action will only increase tensions in the region and create risks of an incident. 
Freedom of overflight and other internationally lawful uses of sea and airspace are essential to prosperity, stability, and security in the Pacific. We don't support efforts by any State to apply its ADIZ procedures to foreign aircraft not intending to enter its national airspace. The United States does not apply its ADIZ procedures to foreign aircraft not intending to enter U.S. national airspace. We urge China not to implement its threat to take action against aircraft that do not identify themselves or obey orders from Beijing. 
We have urged China to exercise caution and restraint, and we are consulting with Japan and other affected parties, throughout the region. We remain steadfastly committed to our allies and partners, and hope to see a more collaborative and less confrontational future in the Pacific.

The White House called the threat an escalatory development." U.S. defense secretary Chuck Hagel called the move "a destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo" in the East China Sea.

Hagel added that U.S. has no plans to change how it conducts military operations in the region.

China reacted sharply to the U.S. statements, warning Washington to stay out of the air zone/islands dispute.

Earlier Saturday, Japan lodged a strong protest with Beijing that called establishment of the ADIZ "totally unacceptable."

China immediately rejected Japan's protest.
China's announcement followed months of escalating tensions. Japan scrambled fighter jets earlier this month over the East China Sea after it spotted an unmanned aircraft flying toward Japan.

Military experts question China's ability to enforce an ADIZ; and neither China nor Japan seem inclined to provoke an incident.

But accidents could happen--"unpredictable events," as Japan put it--and the results could be catastrophic.

Read more.