Home' Defence Review Asia : DRA February 2014 Contents AEW&C
AEW&C PLATFORMS SHOW THEIR
WORTH IN ASIA Gordon Arthur / HONG KONG
China declared its establishment of an Air Defence Identi cation Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea at 10 a.m. on 23
November 2013. is immediately raised consternation among neighbours, as well as causing commentators to ask
whether it was part of a well-conceived master plan or another bumbling Chinese foreign-policy approach.
China undeniably has every right to create an ADIZ
because any coastal country is entitled to identify,
monitor and react to approaching aircraft. The
USA introduced one in 1950. Japan has an ADIZ,
as do South Korea, Taiwan, India and Pakistan.
Spokesman Yang Yujun of the Ministry of National
Defence (MND) stated China created its ADIZ to
"safeguard state sovereignty, territorial land and air
security, and maintain flight order".
The problem is not in China having an ADIZ,
but in the sudden way it went about it. The
announcement came with little forewarning so,
instead of being a potential confidence-building
measure, China's unilateral action exacerbated
regional tensions. China's habitually assertive
stance is undeniably disruptive, and there is growing
discussion whether China is shedding its long-held
diplomatic policy of 'hiding our capabilities, biding
our time'. China could at last be reacting to the US
pivot to Asia, a stress point in the region.
Why is the creation of an ADIZ so destabilising?
Yang emphasised the ADIZ was not directed at
"any specific country or target". Yet, ominously,
China's ADIZ overlaps that of Japan and includes
the contested Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. These
unremarkable rock outcrops represent sacred
rallying points for both Chinese and Japanese
sovereignty. China deliberately staked out a zone
that would stoke Japanese passions. Furthermore,
China's zone overlaps South Korea's ADIZ to the
west of Jeju Island. In a tit-for-tat move, South
Korea enlarged the boundaries of its own ADIZ
by 66,480km² on 15 December so that it now
encompasses the disputed rock Ieodo.
China's move can be construed as a provocative
effort to formalise a claim over the Diaoyu Islands,
to create a new norm. Additionally, China knows
the USA and Japan are inextricably linked via their
security treaty so it is clearly hoping to strain the
alliance. Certainly, US Secretary of Defense Chuck
Hagel characterised it as "a destabilising attempt to
alter the status quo in the region".
It was thus unsurprising that the US Air Force
(USAF) promptly dispatched two B-52 bombers
to fly through China's ADIZ on 26 November.
Emboldened by this act plus Hagel's declaration
that Beijing "would not in any way change how the
United States conducts military operations in the
region", Japan flew jets through the ADIZ too.
China requires all aircraft to obey instructions or
face unspecified "defensive emergency measures".
Such shrill statements imply Beijing is prepared to
use military force to ensure compliance. However,
such actions are unenforceable because an ADIZ
is legally not the same as national airspace. The
above illustrates rising concern about China's
self-proclamations that it adheres unswervingly to
international guidelines. Taking China's territorial
claims in the South China Sea as an example,
Beijing has adopted an extreme minority position
that is not in accord with the UN Convention
on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Dr Andrew
Erickson, an associate professor in the Strategic
Research Department at the US Naval War
College, warns, "Foreign observers worry that the
East China Sea ADIZ will become part of a larger
pattern of Beijing's refusing to adhere fully to
existing international norms and standards, even
as it pursues the benefits of the system whose
functioning they underwrite."
There are two obvious security implications of
China creating this ADIZ, the first a precedent and
China undeniably has every right to create an ADIZ because any coastal
country is entitled to identify, monitor and react to approaching aircraft.
This example of the Boeing 737 "Peace Eye" of the Republic of Korea Air Force made its Seoul Air Show debut late
last year. (Gordon Arthur)
28 DefenceReviewAsia | FEB 2014
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