Tag Archives: East China Sea Air Defense Identificaiton Zone

Russia & China to hold joint naval drills in East China Sea

East China Sea Air Defense Identification ZoneChina’s East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone

Reuters reports (via The Sydney Morning Herald), May 1, 2014, that on April 30, China said it would conduct joint naval drills with Russia in the East China Sea off Shanghai in late May, in what it called a bid to deepen military co-operation.

China’s defense ministry did not give an exact location in the East China Sea, where Beijing is locked in an increasingly bitter dispute with Japan over the ownership of a group of uninhabited islets called Senkaku by Japanese and Diaoyu by Chinese.

“These drills are regular exercises held by China and Russia’s navies, and the purpose is to deepen practical co-operation between the two militaries, to raise the ability to jointly deal with maritime security threats,” the ministry said on its website. It provided no other details.

China alarmed Japan, South Korea and the United States last year when it announced an air defense identification zone for the East China Sea, covering the Senkaku islands.

The Beijing government, which is swiftly ramping up military spending, has regularly dispatched patrols to the East China Sea since it established the defense zone.

China was angered last week after US President Barack Obama assured ally Japan that Washington was committed to its defense, including the disputed isles. (See “Obama makes promises to Japan and South Korea“)

Earlier this month, Tokyo announced it would break ground on a new radar base on Yonaguni island close to Taiwan and the Senkakus. (See “Japan expands its military footprint for first time in 40 years to counter China“)

China and Russia have close diplomatic, security and economic ties, and regularly carry out military exercises together.


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.

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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.


China threatens war in South and East China Seas

South China SeaSouth China Sea

Qianzhan.com ( Forward Looking) is a Chinese-language news site headquartered in the city of Shenzhen in China’s southeastern Guangdong province, with offices in Beijing and Hong Kong.

On Jan. 11, 2014, Chan Kai Yee of China Daily Mail, a non-PRC affiliated website, provided a summary translation of an alarming article in Qianzhan.com, that “According to experts, the Chinese navy has drawn a detailed combat plan to seize Zhongye Island [from the Philippines] and the battle will be restricted within the South China Sea.”


Note: Zhongye Island, aka Pagasa or Thitu Island, is one of the Spratly islands in the South China Sea.


According to Chan, the unnamed author of the Qianzhan article wrote that “Relying on US support, the Philippines is so arrogant as to announce in the New Year that it will increase its navy and air force deployment at Zhongye Island, a Chinese island that it [the Philippines] has illegally occupied for years.” It is claimed that the Philippines military buildup on the island has been confirmed by a report in the Philippines Star.

The buildup being “an intolerable insult to China,” the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) accordingly has made plans for a battle “aimed at recovering the island stolen by the Philippines from China. There will be no invasion into Filipino territories.”

But China is prepared for war not only against the Philippines in the South China Sea, but also against Japan [and the United States] in the East China Sea as well.

East China Sea Air Defense Identification ZoneThis author, StMA, found another Qianzhan article, dated Jan. 13, 2014, which cited (with no source link) an article from the U.S. magazine National Interest predicting that “a small-scale maritime conflict” between China and Japan over the Senkaku or Diaoyu islets in the East China Sea is “most likely,” given a rising China that demands “greater respect” and restitution for its past humiliation, as well as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s determination to revise the Constitution so as to rebuild Japan’s military might.

Conflict will be sparked by the “downing” (yunluo 陨落) of a fighter plane or ship in China’s newly-declared East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). The conflict will escalate, resulting in small-scale naval or air combat — a conflict in which Japan will have scant sympathy or support from the international community, including the Obama administration.

Another Qianzhan article of Jan. 13, 2014 boasts that, in order to protect Chinese fishermen from Japanese harassment in the East China Sea, the PLA has installed 50,000 sets of a “mysterious weapon” on the fishermen’s boats. Reportedly, the “mysterious weapon” is the Big Dipper (Beidou 北斗)Positioning System, which will enable the fishermen to accurately pinpoint and differentiate Chinese territorial waters from international waters. This will ensure the safety of Chinese fishermen and any recurrence of their unwarranted detention by foreign [Japanese] law enforcement personnel.

Of course, since China’s ADIZ includes the Senkaku islets, Beijing considers the waters around Senkaku to be Chinese territorial waters.

Yet another Qianzhan article, also dated Jan. 13, 2014, is even more alarming. The unnamed author writes:

What God wants to destroy, he first makes mad. The faster the pace of [Japanese Prime Minister] Abe’s hurtle toward militarism, the abrogation of [Japan’s] peace constitution, and development of nuclear weapons, the more isolated Japan will be in the international community and the more detested and loathed Abe will be. Japan will then become the object of the world’s condemnation, and will be spurned even by its ally, the United States. Obama’s cold demeanor toward Abe when he recently visited the United States was a warning to Japan.

The Diaoyu [or Senkaku] Islands are extremely important to China and Japan, on which neither country will retreat. Only the country with the greatest capabilities to defeat (zhanzheng 战胜) the other will use the Diaoyu Islands for its future advancement.  In this, according to foreign media, [the Chinese government’s] Central Military Commission has made an important decision: Diaoyu Islands are now (” immediately” or mashang 马上) in a state (zhuangtai  状态) of total war (quanmian zhanzheng 全面 战争).

According to informed sources, in order to meet the U.S.-Japan challenge (tiaozhan 挑战) to China, the People’s Liberation Army has deployed 1,000 guided missiles aimed at Japan. Abe was very shocked when he learned the news. Japanese media are critical of Abe for having been duped by Obama, because once conflict breaks out between the three countries [U.S., Japan, China], the United States most likely will not make much of an effort [to help Japan]. In the end, Japan will be out of luck (daomei 倒霉).

China’s ADIZ is a strategic move to control First Island Chain

China-Japan ADIZs

On Nov. 23, 2013, China unilaterally announced an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) which includes the Japan-held Senkaku Islands, which Chinese call Diaoyutai and over which China also claims ownership.

Since that declaration, Japan and South Korea have refused to accept China’s ADIZ, while the Obama administration has sent mixed signals — at first seemingly challenging the ADIZ by flying two unarmed B-52 bombers over the East China Sea (and the disputed Senkaku islands), then seemingly accepting the ADIZ so long as China not require all aircraft, commercial and military, to check with Beijing before flying through the ADIZ.

It turns out that China’s ADIZ isn’t solely motivated by Beijing’s irredentist claim over the Senkakus, but reaches beyond those disputed islets to include none other than the First Island Chain.

What is the First Island Chain? From Maria Hsia Chang, Return of the Dragon: China’s Wounded Nationalism (Westview, 2001), p. 220:

The PRC [People’s Republic of China] now conceives oceans to be its “second national territory (dier guotu). … China’s “second national territory” includes 12 territorial seas …, 24 “maritime adjacent zones”…, 200 maritime exclusive economic zones and continental shelves — totaling more than 3 million square kilometers or one-third of China’s total land mass.

Defense of its “maritime national territory” requires Beijing to shift its defense strategy from one of “coastal defense” … to “offshore defense”…. National Defense maintains that since “the frontline of maritime national defense lies beyond China’s territorial waters … there will be times” when China’s defense of its seas “may require doing battle in farther maritime regions” including “international waters and seabeds.” China’s perimeter of “offshore defense” is conceived to include two “island chains.” The first chain stretches from the Aleutians to the Kurils, the Japanese archipelago, the Ryukyus, Taiwan, the Philippine archipelago, and the Greater Sunda Islands. The “second island chain” comprises the Bonins, the Marianas, Guam [a U.S. territory], and the Palau archipelago.

1st and 2nd island chainsFirst and Second Island Chains (click map to enlarge)

Below is an excerpt from a commentary by Li Xuejiang (李学江) in the Chinese-language People’s Network (Renmin wang 人民网) of Dec. 3, 2013, titled “Why China’s ADIZ is like a fishbone stuck in the throats of Japan and the U.S.”:

China’s announcement of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) caused an uproar in Japan, the United States, Australia, Canada and other Western countries. Japan and the U.S. even sent military planes as an act of provocation. Their media also rallied together to attack China. Some people laughed at China, saying that the ADIZ is a “disgrace,” “useless,” “a paper tiger.” But in truth, their reaction proves that China’s ADIZ is like a fishbone that’s stuck in the throats of Japan and the U.S.

One of the accusations against China is that China’s military modernization is “disrupting the balance of power in the region.” The United States, therefore, should “return to Asia” to restore the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific. Some U.S. allies in Southeast Asia also expect the United States to counterbalance China. It should be noted, however, that the Asia-Pacific has never had a military balance to restore. Not only has the United States never left Asia, it has had military dominance in East Asia. …

In recent years China’s military modernization has been more in the interest of  defense — an interest that is necessary and legitimate in order to rectify the “imbalance” of power so as to achieve a “rebalance.” This is what worries the United States and Japan. But that should not deter China — China cannot stop cultivating crops because of a “fear of locusts.”

China’s establishment of the ADIZ is not only a matter of the sovereignty of our core national interests and of economic importance; it also has great strategic significance. The United States not only has never accused Japan for its ADIZ, but strongly supports it. Why do these two countries cooperate so seamlessly? Their purpose is, through Japan’s ADIZ, to achieve a blockage of China’s sea and air passages in the first island chain.

Japan’s attempt in so doing is not just “unacceptable,” China must break through the blockage. Ironically, the United States and Japan have shown us how to break that blockage. Now that American and Japanese military airplanes have trespassed into China’s ADIZ without notice, China can also do so vis-a-vis Japan’s ADIZ and without notification. In effect, the U.S.-Japan’s first island chain has become a “useless paper tiger.”

H/t CODA’s Sol Sanders

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Chinese warship tries to stop U.S. warship in So. China Sea’s international waters

USS CowpensUSS Cowpens is a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser that is named after the Battle of Cowpens, a major American victory near Cowpens, South Carolina, in the American Revolution.

Bill Gertz writes for The Washington Free Beacon, Dec 13, 2013:

A Chinese naval vessel tried to force a U.S. guided missile warship to stop in international waters recently, causing a tense military standoff in the latest case of Chinese maritime harassment, according to defense officials.

The guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens, which recently took part in disaster relief operations in the Philippines, was confronted by Chinese warships in the South China Sea near Beijing’s new aircraft carrier Liaoning, according to officials familiar with the incident.

“On December 5th, while lawfully operating in international waters in the South China Sea, USS Cowpens and a PLA Navy vessel had an encounter that required maneuvering to avoid a collision,” a Navy official said.

“This incident underscores the need to ensure the highest standards of professional seamanship, including communications between vessels, to mitigate the risk of an unintended incident or mishap.”

A State Department official said the U.S. government issued protests to China in both Washington and Beijing in both diplomatic and military channels.

The Cowpens was conducting surveillance of the Liaoning at the time. The carrier had recently sailed from the port of Qingdao on the northern Chinese coast into the South China Sea.

According to the officials, the run-in began after a Chinese navy vessel sent a hailing warning and ordered the Cowpens to stop. The cruiser continued on its course and refused the order because it was operating in international waters.

Then a Chinese tank landing ship sailed in front of the Cowpens and stopped, forcing the Cowpens to abruptly change course in what the officials said was a dangerous maneuver.

According to the officials, the Cowpens was conducting a routine operation done to exercise its freedom of navigation near the Chinese carrier when the incident occurred about a week ago.

The encounter was the type of incident that senior Pentagon officials recently warned could take place as a result of heightened tensions in the region over China’s declaration of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently called China’s new air defense zone destabilizing and said it increased the risk of a military “miscalculation.”

China’s military forces in recent days have dispatched Su-30 and J-11 fighter jets, as well as KJ-2000 airborne warning and control aircraft, to the zone to monitor the airspace that is used frequently by U.S. and Japanese military surveillance aircraft.

The United States has said it does not recognize China’s ADIZ, as has Japan’s government.

Two U.S. B-52 bombers flew through the air zone last month but were not shadowed by Chinese interceptor jets.

Chinese naval and air forces also have been pressing Japan in the East China Sea over Tokyo’s purchase a year ago of several uninhabited Senkaku Islands located north of Taiwan and south of Okinawa.

China is claiming the islands, which it calls the Diaoyu. They are believed to contain large undersea reserves of natural gas and oil.

liaoningChina’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning (source)

The Liaoning, China’s first carrier that was refitted from an old Soviet carrier, and four warships recently conducted their first training maneuvers in the South China Sea. The carrier recently docked at the Chinese naval port of Hainan on the South China Sea.

Defense officials have said China’s imposition of the ADIZ is aimed primarily at curbing surveillance flights in the zone, which China’s military regards as a threat to its military secrets.

The U.S. military conducts surveillance flights with EP-3 aircraft and long-range RQ-4 Global Hawk drones.

In addition to the Liaoning, Chinese warships in the flotilla include two missile destroyers, the Shenyang and the Shijiazhuang, and two missile frigates, the Yantai and the Weifang.

Rick Fisher, a China military affairs expert, said it is likely that the Chinese deliberately staged the incident as part of a strategy of pressuring the United States.

“They can afford to lose an LST [landing ship] as they have about 27 of them, but they are also usually armed with one or more twin 37 millimeter cannons, which at close range could heavily damage a lightly armored U.S. Navy destroyer,” said Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

Most Chinese Navy large combat ships would be out-ranged by the 127-millimeter guns deployed on U.S. cruisers, except China’s Russian-made Sovremenny-class ships and Beijing’s new Type 052D destroyers that are armed with 130-millimeter guns.

The encounter appears to be part of a pattern of Chinese political signaling that it will not accept the presence of American military power in its East Asian theater of influence, Fisher said. “China has spent the last 20 years building up its Navy and now feels that it can use it to obtain its political objectives,” he said.

Fisher said that since early 2012 China has gone on the offensive in both the South China and East China Seas. “In this early stage of using its newly acquired naval power, China is posturing and bullying, but China is also looking for a fight, a battle that will cow the Americans, the Japanese, and the Filipinos,” he said.

To maintain stability in the face of Chinese military assertiveness, Fisher said the United States and Japan should seek an armed peace in the region by heavily fortifying the Senkaku Islands and the rest of the island chain they are part of. “The U.S. and Japan should also step up their rearmament of the Philippines,” Fisher said.

The Cowpens incident is the most recent example of Chinese naval aggressiveness toward U.S. ships.

The U.S. intelligence-gathering ship, USNS Impeccable, came under Chinese naval harassment from a China Maritime Surveillance ship, part of Beijing’s quasi-military maritime patrol craft, in June.

During that incident, the Chinese ship warned the Navy ship it was operating illegally despite sailing in international waters. The Chinese demanded that the ship first obtain permission before sailing in the area that was more than 100 miles from China’s coast.

The U.S. military has been stepping up surveillance of China’s naval forces, including the growing submarine fleet, as part of the U.S. policy of rebalancing forces to the Pacific.

The Impeccable was harassed in March 2009 by five Chinese ships that followed it and sprayed it with water hoses in an effort to thwart its operations.

A second spy ship, the USNS Victorious, also came under Chinese maritime harassment several years ago.

Adm. Samuel Locklear, when asked last summer about increased Chinese naval activities near Guam and Hawaii in retaliation for U.S. ship-based spying on China, said the dispute involves different interpretations of controlled waters. Locklear said in a meeting with reporters in July, “We believe the U.S. position is that those activities are less constrained than what the Chinese believe.”

China is seeking to control large areas of international waters—claiming they are part of its United Nations-defined economic exclusion zone—that Locklear said cover “most of the major sea lines of communication” near China and are needed to remain free for trade and shipping.

Locklear, who is known for his conciliatory views toward the Chinese military, sought to play down recent disputes. When asked if the Chinese activities were troubling, he said: “I would say it’s not provocative certainly. I’d say that in the Asia-Pacific, in the areas that are closer to the Chinese homeland, that we have been able to conduct operations around each other in a very professional and increasingly professional manner.”

The Pentagon and U.S. Pacific Command have sought to develop closer ties to the Chinese military as part of the Obama administration’s Asia pivot policies.

However, China’s military has shown limited interest in closer ties.

China’s state-controlled news media regularly report that the United States is seeking to defeat China by encircling the country with enemies while promoting dissidents within who seek the ouster of the communist regime.

The Obama administration has denied it is seeking to “contain” China and has insisted it wants continued close economic and diplomatic relations.

President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to seek a new type of major power relationship during a summit in California earlier this year. However, the exact nature of the new relationship remains unclear.

James R. Holmes writes for The Diplomat, Dec. 14, 2013:

[…] Beijing’s moves in the China seas — seizing disputed islets and atolls, asserting ownership of others, trying to restrict free use of the maritime commons — [can be interpreted] as China’s version of a first-mover strategy. […] Beijing has staked claims to parts of the commons while daring fellow Asian powers to reverse its claims at high cost and risk to themselves, and to regional tranquility. Strategic offense, tactical defense.

This would help explain China’s passive-aggressive approach to offshore quarrels. It proclaims some new policy, then acts put-upon and oh-so-prickly when challenged. Beijing’s announcement of an air-defense identification zone (ADIZ)  has riveted commentators’ attention on the skies over the East China Sea for the past three weeks. The South China Sea appeared somnolent. But last week, reports Bill Gertz reports, a PLA Navy vessel ordered the cruiser USS Cowpens to stop in international waters (but presumably within the nine-dashed line). Cowpens was evidently shadowing the carrier Liaoning at a distance, and Chinese commanders didn’t take kindly to its presence. When the cruiser refused to halt, a PLA Navy amphibious vessel cut across its bow so close aboard that the crew had to maneuver to avoid colliding.

This is serious business. U.S. officials continually harp on the need to work out procedures whereby American and Chinese reduce the chances and ill effects of “miscalculation.” Maybe so. But the main problem in maritime Asia isn’t miscalculation, it’s calculation. The ADIZ, the Senkakus, Scarborough Shoal — none of these are accidents. They’re policies made in China. By all means, let’s work out hotlines and incidents-at-sea agreements in Asia, if possible. But let’s not kid ourselves about their prospects for success. U.S. and allied strategists had better ponder how to counter [China] ….

Obama’s foreign policy: Abandon allies, appease enemies

Obama bows to China president Xi JinpingObama bows to China’s president Xi Jinping (not a photoshop)

Michael Barone writes for National Review, Dec. 10, 2013:

[…] Barack Obama brought to the presidency a different approach than the post–Cold War stances of his two predecessors.

Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, in different ways, maintained support for America’s longstanding allies while gingerly seeking rapprochement with former enemies Russia and China.

With China they established strong trade and financial ties, while discouraging Chinese military aggressiveness. When China shelled the waters off Taiwan in 1996, Clinton sent in the Sixth Fleet.

Clinton cooperated with Boris Yeltsin until the Russian president flamed out in 1999. Bush found that his initial faith in Vladimir Putin was ill-founded.

Barack Obama has put a radically different stamp on American foreign policy. Conservative critics perhaps exaggerate, but are on to something, when they characterize him as disrespecting America’s traditional friends and truckling to longtime enemies.

The pattern has become more pronounced in Obama’s second term. He is making good on his promise to Putin to have “more flexibility.”

In his first term, he blindsided allies by canceling missile-defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic to appease Putin. In this term, he didn’t lift a finger when Putin successfully blocked Ukraine from establishing closer economic ties with the European Union.

In his first term, he one-upped the Palestinians by demanding that Israel stop building settlements (including additions on houses) in East Jerusalem. More recently, he supported the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt as a step toward democracy until it was toppled by the military.

In his first term, he called for the ouster of Syria’s Assad regime and said that its use of chemical weapons would be crossing a “red line.” In his second term, he let the red line be crossed and allowed Putin to stage-manage Syria’s agreement to relinquish the weapons.

In the process, the United States has abandoned attempts to depose Assad and now depends on his good faith to locate the weapons — a victory for Putin and Assad’s allies in Iran.

Obama’s sharp reversals on Syria have been echoed by contradictory responses to China’s declaration of an expanded Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea, covering the Senkaku Islands owned by Japan but claimed by China.

Obama promptly ordered B-52s to fly through the ADIZ without notifying China. But the Federal Aviation Administration also told U.S. airlines to inform China when flying through this airspace. Japan and South Korea took a contrary stance.

Vice President Joe Biden, visiting China last week, expressed deep concern about the ADIZ and warned against armed clashes that could result. But he did not demand it be scrapped.

The November agreement with Iran, concluded after months of undisclosed U.S.–Iran negotiations, suspended sanctions for six months, but did not require the dismemberment of centrifuges demanded in previous United Nations resolutions.

America’s traditional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, have made no secret of their opposition to this agreement. They fear a nuclear Iran dominating their region.

The American Interest’s Walter Russell Mead sees the emergence of an unlikely Israeli–Saudi alliance against Iran, Russia, and China, which he calls the “Central Powers” — the term used for Germany and its allies in World War I.

Today’s Central Powers, he writes, are seeking to diminish U.S. power in the Middle East and East Asia, with some success. The U.S. is abandoning friends in the hope of reducing hostility from enemies.

Sudden reversals of policy, shifting alliances, secret negotiations — these are reminiscent of Christopher Clark’s statesmen who sleepwalked into World War I. Let’s hope that clashes over Asian islets or Iranian centrifuges don’t have the kind of consequences as that terrorist murder in Sarajevo did 99 years ago.

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South Korea reacts to China’s Air Defense Identification Zone by expanding its ADIZ

ADIZ overlap mapYellow lines demarcate China’s ADIZ; red lines demarcate Japan’s ADIZ. Red shaded area is the overlap between China’s and Japan’s ADIZs.

Overlooked in the uproar over China’s announcement, on Nov. 23, 2013, of an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) is the fact that Beijing’s exertion of  sovereignty over the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, did not have to overlap with about 3,000 square kilometers of South Korea’s own ADIZ. The overlap encompasses South Korea’s Ieodo (Suyan) Rock, grazing the Western fringe of Jeju-do’s airspace in the process.

The overlap however is noted in Seoul.

The Hankyoreh began its report by noting the inclusion of Ieodo in the ADIZ, while South Korea’s defense minister Kim Min-seok said Korean aircraft would continue to fly in the area covered by the ADIZ without informing China.

In an attempt to offset tension, the Chinese press immediately disseminated a Chinese defense ministry statement that China had “no territorial dispute” with Seoul over Ieodo, and that Beijing and Seoul would resolve the issue via “friendly consultations and negotiations.”

On December 8, 2013, South Korea announced it is expanding its 62 year-old air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in a clear reaction to China’s own new ADIZ.  The announcement adds over 25,000 sq. mi to Korea’s ADIZ, which now covers the submerged rocks that are the subject of a territorial dispute between South Korea and China. Seoul’s new ADIZ also overlaps with the ADIZs of both China and Japan.

3 ADIZsClick map to enlarge

Unlike China, however, Seoul had conferred in advance with neighboring countries, including the U.S., China, and Japan, before its ADIZ announcement.

According to remarks by Jang Hyuk, head of policy for South Korea’s Defense Ministry, the government believes that the move “will not significantly impact our relationships with China and with Japan as we try to work for peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia”  and that “related countries” are overall “in agreement that this move complies with international regulations and is not an excessive measure.”

China had a muted reaction to South Korea’s announcement. Partially, this was an inevitable result of China’s own insistence that its ADIZ was in accordance with international precedent and convention — China would have a hard time now arguing that South Korea has no right to expand its own ADIZ. In response to a question about the issue, China Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Hong Lei confirmed that China had been notified in advance by the Republic of Korea (ROK). Nevertheless, “China expresses regret” over the decision to expand the Korean ADIZ. “China will stay in communication with the ROK in the principle of equality and mutual respect. We hope that the ROK will meet China halfway.”

As for the issue of the disputed territories with South Korea, Hong made an odd remark — that “an ADIZ is not the [sic] territorial airspace … It has nothing to do with maritime and air jurisdiction.” But that is precisely what China’s ADIZ is, having everything to do with “territorial airspace” and with “maritime and air jurisdiction”!

China’s restraint towards South Korea only draws more attention to its diplomatic row with Japan. Japan’s parliament recently passed a resolution calling for China to rescind its ADIZ. China’s reaction to this development was far more aggressive than its response to South Korea:  “Japan’s accusation against China confuses right and wrong and is totally groundless,” Hong Lei said. China is “strongly dissatisfied” with Japan, two words that China did not use for South Korea’s ADIZ.

Interestingly, most of the concern Chinese scholars do show over South Korea’s move circles back to Japan. In an op-ed for China News, Xue Baosheng of Jilin University writes that China is concerned that Japan might use Korea’s action as an excuse to make its own provocative moves, and that South Korea may not truly understand the “sinister motives” of Japanese authorities, but instead is used by Japan to attack China.

Most Chinese commentators, including Xue, feel a certain kinship with South Korea because both countries suffered under Japanese occupation during World War II. An editorial in China’s Global Times dismissed Korea’s move as a “small tactical advantage” with no major strategic significance, but noted that if Japan had been the one to expand its ADIZ, it would have provoked a strong reaction from China.

The Global Times also noted how different the U.S.’s reaction was to South Korea’s expanded ADIZ. The U.S. State Department issued a statement implicitly comparing South Korea’s ADIZ announcement to China’s: “We appreciate the ROK’s efforts to pursue this action in a responsible, deliberate fashion by prior consultations with the United States and its neighbors, including Japan and China. We also appreciate [South Korea’s] commitment to implement this adjustment to its ADIZ in a manner consistent with international practice and respect for the freedom of overflight and other internationally lawful uses of international airspace,” noting that South Korea does not expect commercial aircraft to comply with the ADIZ regulations. In contrast, the Global Times argued that U.S. and Japanese hostility to China is a reflection of China’s status a “rising major power.”

But the Global Times‘ paternalistic benevolence toward South Korea has its limits. The editorial warned that, should South Korea cross the line in its relationship with China, China could retaliate by disrupting economic ties or by stirring up trouble with North Korea.

Sources: Ankit Panda for The Diplomat, Nov. 28, 2013; Shannon Tiezzi for The Diplomat, Dec. 10, 2013.

The reason for the difference in China’s attitude toward Japan’s ADIZ vs. South Korea’s ADIZ is rooted in China’s irridentist nationalism. In contrast to its experiences with Japan, China had lost no territory to nor had China been invaded by Korea.


China begins mass production of J-15 fighter planes for aircraft carrier

Shenyang J-15 fighter aircraftShenyang J-15 fighter aircraft

Charles Kang and Lilian Wu report for the Republic of China on Taiwan’s Central News Agency, Dec. 3, 2013, that mass production reportedly has begun on China’s Shenyang J-15, a carrier-based fighter jet, in a move that indicates Beijing has started picking up the pace in training and development for its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.

China’s CCTV and the Chinese-language Global Times, both giant state-run media outlets, reported Tuesday that Shenyang Aircraft Corp. has already begun “handing (the planes) over to the military.” Neither outlet gave specifics on the number of fighters produced.

The news comes shortly after China drew global concern by declaring a broad air defense and information zone in the East China Sea.

The Global Times was defiant on the matter of what the world thinks of China: “The mass production and delivery of J-15 jets not only breaks apart the slander and doubt of some foreign media, it also serves to further boost the progress and level of training for the Liaoning.”

Reportedly, the J-15 is sea-grey color, with the flag of the People’s Liberation Army Navy behind the cabin and a flying shark painted on its rear wing. The nose art and tail are said to feature its official designation. That description differs from the yellow-painted test planes previously spotted landing on the Liaoning.

Song Zhongping, a Beijing-based commentator on military affairs, said that the repainting means the fighters are in service and battle-ready: “They’re pretty much ready. The J-15 (crew) has already completed its training and has begun shifting to a formal force.”

Here’s a video of J-15:

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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.”

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