AIRSPACE AC­RI­MONY

The Washington Times Daily - - World -

China’s ef­fort to iso­late Ja­pan as its pri­mary re­gional com­peti­tor has un­rav­eled in less than a week: World pow­ers ral­lied to echo Tokyo’s out­rage over Bei­jing set­ting up an air de­fense zone that en­com­passes much of the air de­fense zones of neigh­bor­ing coun­tries.

The East China Sea Air De­fense Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Zone, which Bei­jing es­tab­lished Nov. 23, cov­ers a large area be­yond its ter­ri­to­rial waters and over­laps sim­i­lar zones of Ja­pan, South Korea and Tai­wan — in­clud­ing sev­eral hot spots that are the ob­ject of com­pet­ing ter­ri­to­rial claims. China an­nounced it is treat­ing the zone as part of its ad­min­is­tra­tive con­trol.

“The East China Sea Air Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Zone in­cludes the airspace within the area en­closed by the outer limit of China ter­ri­to­rial waters and six other points,” said Xin­hua, the of­fi­cial staterun news agency.

The Chi­nese mil­i­tary is­sued new rules de­mand­ing that all air­craft fly­ing into the zone sup­ply Bei­jing with pre­flight in­for­ma­tion on flight plans and ra­dio, transpon­der and air­craft logo iden­ti­fi­ca­tions.

“China’s armed forces will adopt de­fen­sive emer­gency mea­sures to re­spond to air­craft that do not co­op­er­ate in the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion or refuse to fol­low the in­struc­tions,” the mil­i­tary an­nounced.

The zone does not dis­tin­guish be­tween civil­ian and mil­i­tary air­craft, essen­tially sub­ject­ing all for­eign air­craft in the area — in­clud­ing U.S., Ja­panese, South Korean and Tai­wanese mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles — to sub­mit to Chi­nese con­trol or face the prospect of be­ing shot down. In­ter­na­tional out­rage quickly en­sued. Sec­re­tary of State John F. Kerry is­sued a state­ment say­ing the U.S. is “deeply con­cerned” about the zone and ac­cused Bei­jing of uni­lat­er­ally at­tempt­ing to change the sta­tus quo in the volatile re­gion.

De­fense Sec­re­tary Chuck Hagel re­sponded more force­fully: “We view this de­vel­op­ment as a desta­bi­liz­ing at­tempt to al­ter the sta­tus quo in the re­gion … [It] will not in any way change how the United States con­ducts mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in the re­gion.”

Per­haps the most cru­cial re­sponse from Wash­ing­ton were Mr. Hagel’s con­clud­ing re­marks: “We re­main stead­fast in our com­mit­ments to our al­lies and part­ners. The United States reaf­firms its long-stand­ing pol­icy that Ar­ti­cle V of the U.S.-Ja­pan Mu­tual De­fense Treaty ap­plies to the Senkaku is­lands.”

That com­ment served to dash any hope in Bei­jing that Wash­ing­ton might ditch its ally Tokyo in any di­rect armed con­flict be­tween China and Ja­pan over the dis­puted is­lands.

That is par­tic­u­larly sig­nif­i­cant, con­sid­er­ing the in­creased hob­nob­bing be­tween the Chi­nese army and the Pen­tagon, which many ob­servers view as a Chi­nese charm of­fen­sive aimed at neu­tral­iz­ing the U.S.

Ja­pan’s re­sponse was pre­dictable and fierce.

“The airspace the Chi­nese side es­tab­lished to­day is to­tally un­ac­cept­able and ex­tremely re­gret­table as it in­cludes the Ja­panese ter­ri­to­rial airspace over the Senkaku is­lands, an in­her­ent ter­ri­tory of Ja­pan,” the Ja­panese For­eign Min­istry said.

South Korea, China’s new would-be ally against Ja­pan, also voiced out­rage. The Chi­nese zone in­cludes South Korea’s Ieodo rock, a sub­merged rock ad­min­is­tered by Seoul but also sought by China. Seoul’s diplo­matic and de­fense of­fi­cials firmly de­clared the Chi­nese zone null and void.

The zone also over­laps Tai­wan’s airspace. Tai­wanese Pres­i­dent Ma Ying­jeou, known for his soft-line poli­cies to­ward Bei­jing, said he was “gravely con­cerned” de­spite an awk­ward at­tempt to play down its sig­nif­i­cance.

But Tai­wanese op­po­si­tion leader Su Tseng-chang called the zone a Chi­nese “scheme for re­gional hege­mony,” and urged the Ma ad­min­is­tra­tion to have some back­bone.

On Mon­day, Tai­wanese For­eign Min­is­ter David Yung-lo Lin said Tai­wan, Ja­pan and the U.S. al­ready had made “nec­es­sary con­tact” with each other con­cern­ing China’s new zone.

On Thurs­day, China said it sent war­planes into its mar­itime air de­fense zone, days af­ter the U.S., South Korea and Ja­pan all sent flights through the airspace in de­fi­ance of Bei­jing’s rules, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported.

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