Tag Archives: ADIZ

China builds military base on offshore island to reclaim contested Senkakus

At the end of the Ryukyu archipelago in the East China Sea is a cluster of small islands called Senkaku by the Japanese and Diaoyutai by the Chinese, the ownership of which is contested by Beijing and Tokyo. The waters surrounding the islets are believed to contain sub-soil oil and natural gas deposits.

On November 24, 2013, China made a bold move toward its claim by declaring an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that includes the air space over the contested islands.

At first, the United States appeared to challenge China’s ADIZ by flying B-52 bombers over the area. Two days later, China demonstrated its resolve by sending warplanes into the ADIZ. The Obama administration then backed off, told U.S. commercial airlines to abide by China’s rules in the ADIZ, then seemed to signal that the U.S. would accept China’s ADIZ in the East China Sea although the U.S. official position is that it does not recognize the Chinese air defense zone as it covers large areas of international airspace and waters.

Now China has made another move to reclaim the islands.

China vs. Japan ADIZs

Bill Gertz reports for The Washington Free Beacon, Jan. 27, 2015, that recent satellite photos of an island off the coast of China confirm Beijing’s buildup of military forces within attack range of the Senkaku islands.

In October 2014, construction of a helicopter base on Nanji Island was observed by a commercial spy satellite. The island is off the coast of China’s Zhejiang province—some 186 miles northwest of the Senkakus. The imagery, obtained from the Airbus Defense and Space-owned Pleaides satellite, reveals China is constructing an airfield with 10 landing pads for helicopters on Nanji Island.

Click images below to enlarge

Nanji1Nanji2Military analysts say the new military base on Nanji Island appears to be preparation by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army for an attack or seizure of the Senkakus. Rick Fisher, a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said:

“China’s new heli-base on Nanji Island demonstrates that the PLA is preparing for an offensive military operation against the Senkaku/Daiyoutai Islands. If you want to rate the level of tension, this is the PLA reaching for its holster. When forces start deploying to Nanji Island, that means the hammer is cocked.

The military buildup on Nanji was first disclosed by Japan’s Kyodo News Service last month. Kyodo, quoting Chinese sources, said a landing strip was being built. However, the satellite photos, reported last week by IHS trade publication Jane’s Defence Weekly, did not indicate construction of an airstrip, only helicopter landing pads. The helicopter base construction is new because photos taken earlier than October 2013 do not show any visible construction. In addition to the helicopter pads, wind turbines on a ridge on the southeast part of Nanji also are visible additions to the island. Radar and communications equipment also is visible. The helicopter pads are an indication that China plans to use the base for transporting troops and forces by helicopter and not for longer-range air transports or fighter jets.

China has been engaged in a tense confrontation with Japan over the Senkakus since 2012, when Tokyo, in a bid to clarify the status of the uninhabited islands, purchased three of the islands from private owners in a bid to prevent Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara from buying them. Since then, Chinese ships and warplanes, as well as unmanned surveillance drones, have been flying close to the islands, prompting numerous Japanese maritime and aerial intercepts.

Yang Yujun

Yang Yujun

China’s Defense Ministry did not dispute the military buildup on Nanji.

On Dec. 25, 2014, at the same time as he called Japanese news reports of the construction on Nanji “irresponsible,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman PLA Sr. Col. Yang Yujun told reporters in Beijing that “There is no doubt that China has the right to conduct activities and construction on its own territory. Some media in Japan make irresponsible speculations on China’s legitimate activities and construction and play up tensions in the region. It is pure media hype.”

Questions were raised during the discussion with Yang as to whether the buildup is part of China’s declaration of an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea that covers the Senkakus.

Retired PLA Maj. Gen. Xu Guangyu, a senior adviser at China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, a Beijing-based research group, told Singapore’s Today newspaper on Dec. 23, that the Nanji military construction was “normal” and that “China has military bases in several strategically important coastal islands and the Nanji is one of them. The Japanese media is only singling out the Nanji and making a big fuss, [and] this can be misleading.”

Jane’s said the Nanji construction appears to be part of a “quiet military buildup around the Senkaku/Daioyu islands by both sides. For its part, Japan is putting aside funds to buy land for a coastal surveillance radar unit on Yonaguni island, which is the westernmost of its islands and only 150 kilometers from the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, while it is also training up and kitting out a small marine corps-style force that will be based in Nagasaki.”

The lack of an airfield is a “gap” in Chinese plans for military operations against the Senkakus, Jane’s said. The closest PLA air base to the Senkakus currently is located at Luqiao, some 236 miles from the Senkakus, where J-10 fighters are based.

Fisher, however, said Nanji could be used by the PLA to base its large Zubr air-cushioned hovercraft that are capable of moving troops and tanks in a takeover of the Senkakus or an assault against Taiwan.

A Japanese Embassy spokesman declined to comment on the Chinese military construction: “We are in the process of gathering information on this, and thus not able to comment.” A Pentagon spokesman did not respond to an email request for comment.

Note: The United States has a mutual defense treaty with Japan, and a Congressional act with the Republic of China on Taiwan called the Taiwan Relations Act (1979), wherein the U.S. states it is committed to the maintenance of peace and security in the Western Pacific (which includes the Taiwan Strait).

See also:

~StMA

Advertisements

Obama admin gets tougher on China over South China Sea claims

South China SeaAfter sending China mixed signals, if not outright acquiescence, about its declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea last December, the Obama administration, stung by criticisms from U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacific region, is talking tougher against China declaring an ADIZ over the South China Sea.

Geoff Dyer reports for FT.com, Feb. 9, 2014, that the Obama administration has significantly sharpened its rhetoric about China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea over the last week amid growing pressure from allies in the region for Washington to take a firmer line.

In public statements in recent days, senior US officials placed the blame for tensions in the region solely on China and warned that the US could move more forces to the western Pacific if Beijing were to declare an ADIZ in the South China Sea.

Reportedly several Asia governments have complained privately to Washington that China is taking advantage of the U.S. preoccupation with the Middle East, to pursue its territorial claims in Asia with greater confidence.

Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC, said the Obama administration is “definitely trying to turn up the volume about China. This is as close as the Obama administration has come to saying that the nine-dash line is illegal. It is quite significant because they previously danced around the issue.” The nine-dash line is a map produced by China which appears to claim that the bulk of the South China Sea is under Chinese control.

China is involved in a series of increasingly tense territorial disputes in the East China Sea with Japan and in the South China Sea with Vietnam and the Philippines. The US, along with several other governments in the region, believes that China is pushing these claims as part of a broader strategy to exert greater control over large areas of the western Pacific.

In a statement, Evan Medeiros, the Asia director at the White House National Security Council, warned China against declaring an ADIZ for the South China Sea. “We have been very clear with the Chinese that we would see that [the establishment of a new air zone] as a provocative and destabilizing development that would result in changes in our presence and military posture in the region.”

Last week at a Congressional hearing, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Danny Russel testified that “There are growing concerns that this pattern of behavior in the South China Sea reflects incremental effort by China to assert control over the area” and that China had “created uncertainty, insecurity and instability in the region.” Russel urged China to “clarify or adjust its nine-dash line claim to bring it in accordance with the international law of the sea.”

Russel said that any claims to the seas must be based on genuine land features, rather than just rocks that can be covered at high tide. Under the UN convention on the law of the sea, a country can claim a 200km economic zone around islands. Russel also endorsed the effort by the Philippines to take its territorial dispute with China to an international court, part of its efforts to find a “peaceful, non-coercive” solution.

The problem, however, is that although the Obama administration bases some of its arguments on the UN convention on the law of the sea, the US Senate has refused to ratify the same treaty.

See also:

UPDATE (Feb. 11, 2014):

Predictably, China is bristling, characterizing the above comments by various U.S. officials as “irresponsible.”

At a press briefing on Feb. 10, 2014, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said foreign officials should reflect carefully on their stances regarding China’s legitimate rights before making such comments. ‘We hope that relevant countries and officials can stop making irresponsible comments,’ the spokeswoman said.

~StMA

China denies plan for an Air Defense Identification Zone over South China Sea

South China Sea

From Xinhua (via GlobalSecurity.org), Feb. 2, 2014:

China on Saturday dismissed allegations by some Japanese reports that it is to set up an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea and expressed optimism over regional situation.

‘In a general view, the Chinese side has yet to feel any air security threat from the ASEAN countries and is optimistic about its relations with the neighboring countries and the general situation in the South China Sea region,’ Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said in a press release Saturday.

Earlier this week, the Asahi Shimbun daily of Japan reported that China has drafted proposals for the Air Defense Identification Zone over the South China Sea.

Hong said the right-wing forces of Japan have repeatedly clamored about the alleged plan of China to set up ADIZ over the South China Sea. He said this move is of ulterior motive and simply aimed to shift international attention from and cover up the plot to change Japan’s pacifist constitution and expand its military power.

‘We sternly warned these forces not to mislead public opinions with rumors and play up tensions for their own selfish benefit,’ Hong said.

Hong stressed that China and the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) share a bright future for their relations. He said China and the ASEAN countries are working together to implement the declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea in a comprehensive and effective way to safeguard peace and stability in the region.

In response to reports about U.S. officials’ comments on the issue, Hong said China hopes the relevant parties remain cautious about their words and deeds, maintain a calm and objective stance, make joint efforts with China and make concrete contribution to peace, stability and security in the air and on sea of the region.

Hong said China, as a sovereign country, has all the legitimate rights to adopt all measures, including setting up ADIZ, to safeguard national security in response to the situation of air security. No one should make irresponsible comments on this, Hong said.

See also:

Obama admin. signals U.S. will accept China’s Air Defense Zone

On China’s provocative unilateral declaration of an East China Sea Air Identification Zone (ADIZ), the Obama administration has said/done one thing one day, then another thing another day.

The latest, as of yesterday, December 3, 2013, is that the United States can live with China’s ADIZ so long as China stop insisting that all aircraft, commercial and military, must check with Beijing before flying through the ADIZ.

Expect that the Obama administration’s position on this will change again tomorrow. To quote Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind: “After all, tomorrow is another day!”

CODA commenter 羅針盤 is right: The President of the United States, the most powerful country in the world, is “Chicken Obama.”

The real question is: Since China is now threatening military action against Japan, what will the Obama administration do should war does break out in the East China Sea? Didn’t Biden recently reiterate that the disputed Senkaku (or Diaoyu) Islands are within the territories of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Defense Treaty?

Obama bows to ChinaPhotoshopped image

Dan Lamothe and Yochi Dreazen report for Foreign Policy, Dec. 4, 2013:

Top Obama administration and Pentagon officials signaled a willingness to temporarily accept China’s new, controversial air defense identification zone on Wednesday. Those officials expressed disapproval for the way in which the Asian power has flexed its muscles, and cautioned China not to implement the zone. But they also carved out wiggle room in which the United States and China ultimately could find common ground on the issue, indicating that they may be willing to live with the zone for now — as long as China backs off its demand that all aircraft traveling through it check in first.

“It wasn’t the declaration of the ADIZ that actually was destabilizing,” said Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, America’s highest-ranking military officer. “It was their assertion that they would cause all aircraft entering the ADIZ to report regardless of whether they were intending to enter into the sovereign airspace of China. And that is destabilizing.”

That’s a change from just a few days ago, when U.S. Vice President Joe Biden demanded that China take back its declaration of the zone. And it’s another demonstration that China’s recent decisions have forced the United States to tread carefully. On Wednesday, Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing for more than five hours, according to a senior administration official. In brief public remarks midway through the marathon session, Biden didn’t mention the air defense zone at all.

Japan, a vital American ally, has expressed fury over the Chinese move and ordered its commercial airliners not to provide information about their flight paths to the Chinese military. By contrast, the United States made a point of flying a pair of B-52s through it last week, but seems to have accepted that China will keep the zone in place indefinitely. U.S. officials have shifted their focus instead on preventing a potential military clash between Japan and China.

In meetings in Beijing on Wednesday, Biden laid out the U.S. position in detail, reiterating that the United States does not recognize the new zone and has deep concerns about it, a senior administration official said. Biden told Xi that the United States wants China to take steps to lower tensions in the region, avoid enforcement actions that could lead to crisis, and to establish communication with Japan and other countries in the region to avoid altercations, the administration official added. Privately, Biden did not call for the air defense identification zone it to be rolled back — something administration officials had done Monday while Biden was visiting Japan. Instead, the vice president asked the Chinese leader to be careful about how his country operated the zone going forward.

“He indicated to Xi that we are looking to China to take steps as we move forward to lower tensions, to avoid enforcement actions that could lead to crisis, and to establish channels of communication with Japan, but also with their other neighbors to avoid the risk of mistake, miscalculation, accident or escalation,” the official told reporters in Beijing.

Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said Wednesday that the United States does not recognize the zone and China “should not implement it.” Administration officials said Biden’s message reflects the White House’s growing concerns that China’s establishment of the air defense identification zone risks sparking a regional crisis. In the long term, the officials said, the United States wants China to eliminate the air defense entirely. With China already patrolling the zone with fighter jets, the officials said the White House was focused on preventing the growing tensions between Japan and China from getting worse. That includes temporary measures like pushing the two countries to establish a hotline designed to ensure that a miscommunication doesn’t lead a clash between the two countries.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, took a measured approach. They said the major issue isn’t the creation of the zone itself, but the way China has handled it and the country’s demand that aircraft entering the zone share their flight plans.

“It’s not that the ADIZ itself is new or unique,” Hagel said. “Our biggest concern is how it was done so unilaterally and so immediately without any consultation, or international consultation. That’s not a wise course of action to take for any country.”

Dempsey expanded on that, saying that the ADIZ the Chinese established isn’t their sovereign airspace, but international airspace adjacent to it. The international norm for such an area, Dempsey said, is for aircraft to check in with the country declaring an ADIZ only if it intends to enter sovereign airspace afterward. Many other countries, including the United States, also have ADIZ areas established.

The remarks open the possibility that if China backs off its demand that all aircraft in the ADIZ share their flight plans, the United States could lighten up on China establishing a zone. That’s unlikely to please Japan, however.

Hagel indirectly addressed that Wednesday. Despite calling China’s rollout of the air-defense zone unwise, he also stressed the United States’ growing relationship with the Chinese military. He advocated for the preservation of security and free shipping lanes for all players in the region, and sent a message to other U.S. allies in the region — including Japan.

“It’s important for China, Japan, South Korea, all the nations in this area to stay calm and responsible,” he said. “These are combustible issues.”

See also:

U.S. directly challenges China’s air defense zone with B-52 bombers

Map of east china sea and declared air defence zone

The BBC reports, Nov. 26, 2013, that the United States has flown two B-52 bombers over the disputed islands in the East China Sea in defiance of China’s declaration last Saturday of a new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the sea.

China and Japan both claim ownership over the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, which are a source of increasing tension between the two countries.

The aircraft, which were unarmed, had taken off from Guam on Monday and the flight was part of a regular exercise in the area, US defense officials said. Both planes later returned to Guam.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said the U.S. bombers had followed “normal procedures” and that 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.” There had been no response from China, he added.

The US – which has more than 70,000 troops in Japan and South Korea – had previously said it would not abide by the Chinese-imposed zone. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called it a “destabilising attempt to alter the status quo in the region”.

China set up the ADIZ insisting that aircraft obey its rules by warning China of their flight plans or face “emergency defensive measures.”  In a statement announcing the air defense zone, the Chinese defense ministry said aircraft must report a flight plan, “maintain two-way radio communications” and “respond in a timely and accurate manner” to identification inquiries. The statement warns, “China’s armed forces will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond to aircraft that do not co-operate in the identification or refuse to follow the instructions.”

Japan has dismissed the Chinese ADIZ as “not valid at all” and two of its biggest airlines announced today they will not abide by China’s new rules, in accordance with a request from the government in Tokyo.

But Reuters reported yesterday (Nov. 25) that four Asian airlines will give their flight plans to Beijing:

Civil aviation officials from Hong Kong and Taiwan said their carriers entering the zone must send flight plans to Chinese aviation authorities. A transport ministry official in Seoul said South Korean planes would do the same.

An official at the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau said Japanese airlines flying through the region to non-mainland Chinese destinations would likely need to inform China of their plans. “Airlines have been advised to take greater care in the area,” said another bureau official.

Singapore Airlines and Qantas Airways Ltd said they would keep Chinese authorities informed of their flights through the area.

Korean Air said its flight plans would be delivered to Chinese authorities but the routes its pilots took would not be affected. Japan Airlines and ANA Holdings also said the zone had not affected their flights.

China’s unilateral establishment of an air defense zone that overlaps areas claimed by Japan is a strong statement and one that raises the risk of possible miscalculation and escalation in the region.

The ADIZ declaration shows President Xi Jinping’s resolve to defend what China conceives to be its territorial integrity, including the integrity of lost territories. Over the last decade, populist nationalism in China has been fueled by an official narrative of humiliation at the hands of the West which began more than 100 years ago when Imperial China was defeated by Britain in the Opium War of 1840-1842. Although Chinese nationalist passions have been tempered by adherence to Deng Xiaoping’s “hide and bide” policy of strategic restraint, recent demonstrations of Chinese military power and increasingly bellicose rhetoric would suggest that Xi Jinping may be prepared to overlook this policy.

Japan has already lodged a strong protest over what it said was an “escalation” by China.

The Republic of China on Taiwan, which also claims the islands, expressed regret at Beijing’s move and promised that its military would take measures to protect Taiwan’s national security.

See also: