CHINA'S WAR-LIKE MOVES IN THE EAST CHINA SEAS AND THE ALLIED RESPONSE: A COMMENT
"China has attempted to stamp its sovereignty on the airspace over islands that Japan also claims, a move that threatens to escalate a longstanding territorial dispute between the two Asian powers. The Chinese defence ministry on Saturday announced that it would establish an “air defence identification zone” over the uninhabited islets in the East China Sea known in Japan as the Senkaku and in China as the Diaoyu. It added that in order to protect its territorial rights, China would take “defensive emergency measures” against aircraft that entered the zone without identifying themselves. The Japanese foreign ministry lodged an immediate protest with the Chinese embassy in Tokyo, saying it was a “very dangerous” action. A spokesperson for the ministry said China’s unilateral action was “totally unacceptable and completely invalid” and could lead to “an unexpected occurrence of accidents in the area because it tries to restrict flights over high seas”. The US issued a sharply worded condemnation of China’s move. “We view this development as a destabilising attempt to alter the status quo in the region,” said defence secretary Chuck Hagel. China’s defence ministry on Monday said it had lodged protests with both the US and Japan over the weekend after they criticised Beijing’s move. In an early test of China’s new zone, which Beijing said went into force on Saturday, the Chinese air force sent early warning aircraft and fighter jets on a sweep of the area later in the day. Japan’s defence ministry said it scrambled fighter jets after detecting Chinese reconnaissance planes near its airspace. Over the past year tensions between the two counties have ratcheted up over the East China Sea. China has routinely flown aircraft over and sent surveillance ships into the territorial waters surrounding the disputed islands, challenging Tokyo’s effective control of a group that Beijing says Japan stole in the late 19th century. Japan has started to take a more assertive stance in response to the Chinese actions, stepping up its coastguard presence and its air defence. Experts warn that the risk of miscalculation has risen alongside the increased frequency of the two militaries’ near-encounters on the East China Sea. Yang Yujun, spokesman of the Chinese defence ministry, said the air identification zone was based on international law. “This is a necessary measure China has taken to exercise its right to self defence,” he said. “It is not directed against any specific country or target. It does not affect the freedom of flights in the airspace.” Junichi Ihara, director-general of the Japanese foreign ministry’s Asian and Oceanic affairs bureau, lodged a protest by phone to Han Zhiqiang, China’s acting ambassador to Japan".Simon Rabinovitch & Ben McLannahan, "Japan rejects China claim on airspace over disputed islands." The Financial Times. 24 November 2013, in www.ft.com
"Two unarmed U.S. B-52 bombers flew over disputed islands on a training mission in the East China Sea without informing Beijing while Japan's main airlines ignored Chinese authorities when their planes passed through a new airspace defense zone on Wednesday. The defiance from Japan and its ally the United States over China's new identification rules raises the stakes in a territorial standoff between Beijing and Tokyo over the islands and challenges China to make the next move. China published coordinates for an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone over the weekend and warned it would take "defensive emergency measures" against aircraft that failed to identify themselves properly. The zone is about two thirds the size of Britain. "If the United States conducts two or three more flights like this, China will be forced to respond. If China can only respond verbally it would be humiliating," said Sun Zhe, a professor at the Center for U.S.-China Relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing. "The concept of the paper tiger is very important. All sides face it." China's Defense Ministry said it had monitored the entire progress of the U.S. bombers through the zone on Tuesday Asian time. A Pentagon spokesman said the planes had neither been observed nor contacted by Chinese aircraft. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang, when asked how China would respond to future infractions of the zone, said the country would "make an appropriate response" that depended on the "situation and degree of threat". Qin added that China had informed "relevant countries" before setting up the zone. He would not elaborate. Following a request from the Japanese government, Japan Airlines and ANA Holdings said they stopped giving flight plans and other information to Chinese authorities on Wednesday. Neither airline had experienced any problems when passing through the zone, they added. Japan's aviation industry association said it had concluded there was no threat to passenger safety by ignoring the Chinese demands, JAL said. Both JAL and ANA posted notices on their websites informing its passengers of their decision. The flight by the B-52 bombers was part of a long-planned exercise, a U.S. military official said. Some experts have said the Chinese move was aimed at chipping away at Tokyo's claim to administrative control over the area, including the tiny uninhabited islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. The action might have backfired, said Brad Glosserman, executive director of the Honolulu-based Pacific Forum CSIS. "This is confirming the darker view of China in Asia," Glosserman said. "The Chinese once again are proving to be their own worst enemy ... driving the U.S. closer to Japan and (South) Korea closer to the position of Tokyo as well." U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, in her first speech since assuming her post earlier this month, criticized China's "unilateral action" as undermining regional security. Kennedy also said Japan had shown "great restraint this past year" and urged Tokyo to continue to do so. "Weencourage Japan to increase communication with its neighbors and continue to respond to regional challenges in a measured way." Tim Kelly and Phil Stewart, "Defying China, U.S. bombers and Japanese planes fly through new air zone." Reuters. 27 November 2013, in www.reuters.com The Chinese government's attempted coup de main, and the allied (Japanese-American) response is one of the more refreshing and happier response and counter-response in International Relations for quite some time. It is by definition the case that Peking is endeavoring, by hook or by crook, to unilaterally change the territorial status quo ante bellum in the Far East. The dispute over the Senkaku is merely the first step in a larger project by Peking towards territorial revisionist project vis-`a-vis most of its neighbors. If left unchallenged, Peking would surely press on each of its neighbors going forward in a similar fashion that it has so far shown towards Japan. The joint Japanese-American response to Peking's bullying tactics is in fact the only response possible. Anything else would merely confirm the PRC that it can increase the pressure on Japan and soon other powers for similar attempted gains. As the usually bien-pensant Financial Times, for once correctly points out in its leader on Monday of this week:
"If Beijing is so convinced that international law is on its side it should seek to take the dispute to international arbitration. Tokyo probably would not agree but – equally convinced of its claim – just might if it could be assured that Beijing would abide by the result. Short of that, the two sides need to move to the status quo ante, by setting the dispute aside for wiser heads to resolve in future. In the meantime, they should seek to share resources, including fishing and oil exploration rights. The suspicion must be that Beijing does not want that. Instead it may see the islands as a way of driving a wedge between the US and Japan. It is an irresponsible game" 1.1. Leader, "An irresponsible game in the Pacific." The Financial Times. 25 November 2013, in www.ft.com.