China’s ADIZ

De­spite the fact that the pur­ported ‘peace­ful rise’ of China was never peace­ful and con­versely ex­tremely vi­o­lent, it would be pru­dent for China to keep its ter­ri­to­rial am­bi­tions in check for the sake of peace and pros­per­ity of the re­gion.

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt Gen­eral (Retd) P.C. Ka­toch

De­spite the fact that the pur­ported ‘peace­ful rise’ of China was never peace­ful and con­versely ex­tremely vi­o­lent, it would be pru­dent for China to keep its ter­ri­to­rial am­bi­tions in check for the sake of peace and pros­per­ity of the re­gion in­clud­ing its own and the world at large.

ON NOVEM­BER 23, 2013, the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army Air Force (PLAAF) de­clared China’s first ever air de­fence iden­ti­fi­ca­tion zone (ADIZ) over a broad area in the East China Sea that over­lapped the airspace over the Senkaku group of is­lands. The Chi­nese ac­tion has thus added a new di­men­sion of pos­si­ble vi­o­lence in an al­ready tense re­gion af­ter China ar­bi­trar­ily ex­tended its ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zone (EEZ) com­pletely dis­re­gard­ing its neigh­bours.

Senkaku Is­lands

Senkaku group of Is­lands, also known as the Diaoyu Is­lands in Main­land China or Diaoyu­tai Is­lands in Tai­wan is a group of un­in­hab­ited is­lands con­trolled by Ja­pan in the East China Sea. In 1969, the United Na­tions Eco­nomic Com­mis­sion for Asia and Far East (ECAFE) iden­ti­fied po­ten­tial oil and gas re­serves in the vicin­ity of the Senkaku Is­lands in 1969. The Chi­nese and Tai­wanese Gov­ern­ments of­fi­cially be­gan to de­clare own­er­ship of the is­lands in 1972. Chal­leng­ing Ja­pan’s sovereignty over them has been dis­puted by both the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China (PRC) and the Repub­lic of China (Tai­wan) fol­low­ing the trans­fer of ad­min­is­tra­tion from the US to Ja­pan in 1972. The Chi­nese now claim the dis­cov­ery and con­trol of the is­lands from the 14th cen­tury but Ja­pan con­trolled the is­lands from 1895 un­til its sur­ren­der at the end of World War II. The US ad­min­is­tered Senkaku from 1945 un­til 1972, when the is­lands re­verted to Ja­panese con­trol un­der the Ok­i­nawa Rev­er­sion Agree­ment be­tween the United States and Ja­pan. On Septem­ber 11, 2012, Ja­pan na­tion­alised its con­trol over the is­lands by pur­chas­ing them from the Kuri­hara fam­ily of Ja­pan for ¥2.05 bil­lion but China ob­jected to the deal, claim­ing that th­ese is­lands are Chi­nese ter­ri­tory.

The Chi­nese Chal­lenge

The PLAAF de­clared that all non-com­mer­cial air­craft en­ter­ing a broad zone over the East China Sea must first iden­tify them­selves to Bei­jing at the risk of fac­ing “de­fen­sive emer­gency mea­sures” by PLAAF. The ADIZ cov­ers the fa­mous eight un­in­hab­ited is­lands, im­ply­ing Ja­panese air­craft fly­ing around those is­lands would need to sub­mit their flight plans to China and if ‘granted per­mis­sion’ would still need to main­tain ra­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties:

China ap­par­ently hoped to achieve mul­ti­ple ob­jec­tives: first, chal­lenge the sovereignty of Ja­pan over the is­lands; sec­ond, bring in­ter­na­tional fo­cus on Chi­nese claim over the area; third, pro­voke Ja­pan to test its re­ac­tion; fourth, test the Ja­panUS al­liance and fifth, test global re­ac­tion to de­clare more ADIZ in line with its ar­bi­trar­ily ex­pand­ing EEZ claims—China hav­ing al­ready an­nounced that more Chi­nese ADIZ would fol­low.

Re­ac­tions

This Chi­nese ac­tion in­vited re­ac­tions on ex­pected lines. The US termed the Chi­nese ac­tion as a desta­bil­is­ing at­tempt to al­ter the sta­tus quo in the re­gion, in­creas­ing risk of mis­un­der­stand­ing and mis­cal­cu­la­tions, and that it would in no way change how the US con­ducts mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in the re­gion. The US fol­lowed up this state­ment by fly­ing two un­armed B52 bombers into the so-called Chi­nese ADIZ. If China was merely sig­nalling, then the US re­turned the sig­nal. It is quite pos­si­ble that China was hop­ing that such a counter-ac­tion would be un­der­taken by Ja­pan and not the United States. Not sur­pris­ing, there was no move­ment by PLAAF be­yond a Chi­nese state­ment that it had mon­i­tored the flight of the B52 bombers, which means lit­tle. If China wanted to test the US-Ja­pan al­liance, it got the an­swer.

Rise of the Dragon

Ever since 1993, when China be­came a net im­porter of oil for the first time, it has been pub­licly declar­ing its in­ten­tions of step­ping be­yond its tra­di­tional con­ti­nen­tal land-ori­ented se­cu­rity par­a­digms. In Jan­uary 2005, Lt Gen­eral Lin Yazhou, then Deputy Po­lit­i­cal Com­mis­sar of PLAAF, stated, “When a na­tion grows strong enough, it prac­tises hege­mony. The sole pur­pose of power is to pur­sue power... Ge­og­ra­phy is des­tiny… When a coun­try be­gins to rise; it shall first set it­self in an in­vin­ci­ble po­si­tion.” With the re­cent state­ment of the ADIZ from the PLAAF, there is some co­in­ci­dence but Lin Yazhou for­got that ge­og­ra­phy is not in favour of China as it has a lim­ited oceanic front, and more im­por­tantly, chang­ing ge­og­ra­phy akin to the erst­while Bri­tish Em­pire and blitzkrieg type of ac­tions are un­likely to suc­ceed. But then Chi­nese ac­tions in re­cent years have led a cross sec­tion to con­clude that this Chi­nese mind­set is rooted in its his­tor­i­cal “Tian Xia” (un­der the Heaven) con­cept which tra­di­tion­ally views “all ter­ri­to­ries” un­der the sun be­long­ing to the Chi­nese, be­cause of which they at­tach no sense to ter­ri­tory. So pos­si­bly when Lin Yazhou stated: “Ge­og­ra­phy is des­tiny,” he was per­haps hal­lu­ci­nat­ing the en­tire global airspace be­ing dom­i­nated by the PLAAF.

Im­pli­ca­tions and Fall­outs

The fact that China has again launched fighter jets in the ADIZ ‘af­ter’ the United States, Ja­pan and South Korea had flown mil­i­tary air­craft in de­fi­ance of China’s claim, in­di­cates that China in­tends to keep dis­turb­ing the sta­tus quo and throw­ing the gaunt­let across the waters. China’s dec­la­ra­tion of the above ADIZ ap­par­ently would have the fol­low­ing fall­outs: China’s ADIZ en­com­passes the air space above Ja­pan’s Senkaku Is­lands and as such over­laps with the Ja­panese ADIZ; chal­leng­ing Ja­panese sovereignty. Chi­nese at­tempt to uni­lat­er­ally im­pose its ADIZ reg­u­la­tions on Ja­panese airspace, in­creases the risk of misad­ven­ture in the air rather than con­tain­ing such risks. Since the US ad­min­is­tered Senkaku is­lands af­ter World War II and later trans­ferred them back to Ja­panese con­trol, the US recog­nises Ja­panese ad­min­is­tra­tion over Senkaku is­lands. The US has demon­strated its de­fence treaty with Ja­pan which cov­ers the Senkaku is­lands—land fea­ture, ter­ri­to­rial sea and air space. Should PLAAF send mil­i­tary air­craft to chal­lenge Ja­panese mil­i­tary air­craft over the Senkaku is­lands, it can pro­voke a clash that can es­ca­late. The US ac­tion has re­as­sured al­lies in the re­gion who post the US eco­nomic draw down and bud­getary cuts were ap­pre­hen­sive whether the US would phys­i­cally come to their as­sis­tance in case of con­flict. China has in­di­cated that it re­serves the right to im­pose ADIZs over other mar­itime re­gions in­clud­ing South China Sea.

Ever since 1993, when China be­came a net im­porter of oil for the first time, it has been pub­licly declar­ing its in­ten­tions of step­ping be­yond its tra­di­tional con­ti­nen­tal land-ori­ented se­cu­rity par­a­digms

If China pro­mul­gates an ADIZ over the South China Sea, this could af­fect Viet­namese mil­i­tary air pa­trols over the Spratly is­lands. Since Ja­pan in­sists that there is no dis­pute over Senkaku, China’s long-term strat­egy ap­pears to con­tinue claim­ing the ADIZ and keep pa­trolling it, in or­der to drive home the point that it in­deed is dis­puted. Should there be a clash be­cause of fur­ther Chi­nese ac­tion, China’s neigh­bours would need to re­view de­fen­sive mea­sures to pro­tect their sovereignty, which may lead to es­ca­la­tion of ac­qui­si­tion of arms and even go­ing nu­clear with­out a test and with­out an­nounce­ments – akin to Is­rael. By pro­vok­ing Ja­pan, China is in­ad­ver­tently do­ing a strate­gic favour to Ja­pan by rous­ing Ja­panese na­tion­al­ism to the next level. Al­ready, Ja­pan is in the process of re­vis­ing its de­fence poli­cies. As per an­a­lysts, a pre-emp­tive strike strat­egy against po­ten­tial ag­gres­sors may well be on the cards. Ja­panese me­dia re­ports in­di­cate that a study to strengthen the abil­ity to de­ter and re­spond to bal­lis­tic mis­siles has been con­cluded. Mao Tze Dong’s had said, “The Chi­nese peo­ple have stood up; they will never again be hu­mil­i­ated.” But China must re­alise that Ja­panese peo­ple were stand­ing much be­fore Chi­nese took baby steps. So, China will have to bear the con­se­quences of try­ing to hu­mil­i­ate the Ja­panese psy­che. Should Chi­nese assertive­ness con­tinue to dis­re­gard global com­mons, con­tinue to de­clare more ADIZ that would af­fect more coun­tries of Asia-Pa­cific and or­ches­trate clashes at what­ever small level, the sit­u­a­tion tak­ing an up­ward spi­ral can hardly be dis­counted, global re­ac­tion to which may in­clude ex­ploit­ing the fault lines within China es­pe­cially since China it­self has been wag­ing proxy wars on many fronts over the past sev­eral decades. Thomas Reed in his re­cent book The Nu­clear Ex­press: A Po­lit­i­cal His­tory of the Bomb and its Pro­lif­er­a­tion re­veals post his talks with Chi­nese sci­en­tists that China un­der Deng Xiaop­ing, de­cided to pro­lif­er­ate nu­clear tech­nol­ogy to com­mu­nists and Mus­lims in the third world based on the strat­egy that if the West started get­ting nuked by Mus­lim ter­ror­ists or another com­mu­nist coun­try with­out Chi­nese fin­ger­prints, it would be good for China. Hence the nu­clear help to Pak­istan and North Korea.

Con­clu­sion

The Chi­nese dec­la­ra­tion of the ADIZ en­com­pass­ing the Senkaku Is­lands has the po­ten­tial of es­ca­la­tion es­pe­cially if Ja­panese mil­i­tary air­craft fly­ing over them are phys­i­cally chal­lenged. China needs to re­alise that di­a­logue may be bet­ter than fol­low­ing the ap­proach of the camel’s head slip­ping into the tent. De­spite the fact that the pur­ported ‘peace­ful rise’ of China was never peace­ful and con­versely ex­tremely vi­o­lent, it would be pru­dent for China to keep its ter­ri­to­rial am­bi­tions in check for the sake of peace and pros­per­ity of the re­gion in­clud­ing its own and the world at large.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: FREEWEBS.COM

Diaoyu Is­land

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