In a Policy Commentary for the Rising Powers Initiative, RPI author Dr. Ren Xiao, director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Foreign Policy at Fudan University in China, offers a view from China on the recent dispute over Beijing’s air defense identification zone in the East China Sea. Though China’s latest move in the on-going islands dispute prompted a range of reactions from Asian powers, Ren Xiao defends the decision as a natural response to recent developments and calls on China and Japan to form a crisis management mechanism to avoid further conflict in region:
On November 23, 2013，China announced its establishment of an East China Sea air defense identification zone (ADIZ). The ADIZ was clearly under deliberation for some time, and its announcement was carefully timed by Beijing. The announcement was withheld as the new Chinese leadership concentrated on the upcoming Third Plenum and was released ten days after the third Plenum concluded.
The ADIZ announcement was a continuation of the Diaoyu/Senkaku island crisis, a counter-measure that resulted from Japan and China’s failure to establish a mechanism to avoid conflict and manage the island dispute. One puzzle is why the announcement of the ADIZ did not happen last year (2012). Following Japan’s “nationalization” of the islands, China took a series of steps to counter-balance Japan’s act. An announcement of the ADIZ back then would have seemed more natural and logical.
Nevertheless, there is an important follow-up question: why did the announcement seem sudden and abrupt to other nations, triggering strong reactions from several parties, including the United States? Not surprisingly, when meeting with the Chinese leaders in early December, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden expressed concern with China’s establishment of the ADIZ. Chinese leaders responded by restating its position on the ADIZ.
In Defense of China’s Rights to an ADIZ
China has the legal right to establish the ADIZ, given the previous establishment of ADIZs by the United States and Japan. An air defense identification zone is an area outside a country’s territorial airspace that is defined in an attempt to identify whether an approaching aircraft is a threat or not so that they have enough time to react. The ADIZ is not territorial airspace. Over 20 countries have set up their ADIZs, thus China has the legitimate right to do the same.
Japan should not have been surprised by China’s counter-measure move. This move was not a question of “if”, but “when.” The ADIZ is a continuation of China’s reactions to Japan’s “nationalization” of the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands in September 2012. Infuriated by Japan’s actions, Beijing is determined not to let Japan have unilateral de facto control of the islands. China keeps sending coast guard ships to the adjacent waters to form a situation of joint but separate patrolling. In fact, China is aiming for a new status quo, in which China will reciprocate Japan’s actions.
Japan is still paying a price for its ill-conceived action in September 2012 to “nationalize” the islands, unnecessarily and unwisely provoking China and grossly underestimating China’s reaction, will, and determination. For Beijing, its restraint over the unresolved dispute went unappreciated by Japan, who has took advantage of China’s restraint to consolidate its control of the islands, thereby revealing Japan’s intention to seize the islands.
Moreover, 44 years ago, Japan established its ADIZ, which far exceeds its self-claimed “medium line” in the East China Sea. The closest point of Japan’s ADIZ is only 130 kilometers from China’s coast. On the basis of its own ADIZ, Japan’s military jets often scrambled to follow and monitor Chinese jets flying in international airspace within Japan’s ADIZ. After the Diaoyu/Senkaku crisis broke out, Japanese jets scrambled more frequently than before, highlighting tensions in the East China Sea.
With China’s ADIZ established, the two countries are now more “equal.” It is unfair to claim that China should not have set up an ADIZ when both Japan and the United States have established their own ADIZs. The United States was the first country to unilaterally declare an ADIZ; Japan’s ADIZ declaration was also unilateral. Thus, China also has the right to make such a unilateral declaration.
Mishandling the South Korean Reaction
Soon after, it was reported that China’s ADIZ overlapped with a section of the Korean ADIZ that is 20km wide and 115km long, and encompasses Suyan rock (what South Korea calls “Ieodo”). China argues that because Suyan is underwater there is not a territorial dispute between China and South Korea over the rock. This problem can be solved through maritime demarcation. On December 8, 2013, South Korea declared the extension of its ADIZ to now include Suyan rock. China expressed regret at this move. One question is whether China could have handled this ADIZ matter more carefully in order to not involve South Korea.
This imbroglio once again highlights the urgent need for Japan and China to form a crisis management mechanism. Both countries need to sit down and discuss what they should do to avoid conflict in East China Sea.
The author is the director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Foreign Policy at Fudan University, Shanghai, China. He is also a co-author on the Rising Powers Initiative’s Worldviews of Aspiring Powers project.Continue Reading →
Mike M. Mochizuki, Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Japan-U.S. Relations Chair in Memory of Gaston Sigur at the Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University, recently co-authored an article with Samuel Parkinson Porter for The Washington Quarterly titled “Japan under Abe: toward Moderation or Nationalism?”
Mochizuki and Porter question whether the victory in the July 2013 national election – which finally established a stable government in Japan for the first time in almost a decade – emboldens Prime Minister Abe to pursue his nationalist agenda. Despite the recent resurgence of constitutional and historical revisionism in Japan that has alarmed neighboring countries, Mochizuki and Porter argue that Abe and the LDP’s return to power does not reflect a rise of nationalism among the Japanese, who still embrace the anti-war language of the Japanese constitution’s Article 9. They conclude that the United States should not only welcome Japan’s new “moderate realism” – measured expansion of its security and military role in the region – but also do more to encourage the process of historical reconciliation in Northeast Asia.Continue Reading →
On December 5, former South African President Nelson Mandela, died at age 95. Mandela served 27 years in prison for anti-apartheid activities and led his country into a new era of freedom and democracy. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, Russia, India, South Korea, Japan, and Brazil on the legacy of one of the greatest political leaders in history.
The media and government officials praised Mandela for his contributions to South Africa’s development. Mandela’s death dominated major Chinese TV channels, while Baidu, the largest Chinese search engine, turned its search page background all-gray in mourning for Mandela. (more…)Continue Reading →
On November 23, China announced the establishment of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over disputed parts of the East China Sea and declared that it would scramble “emergency defense responses” to aircraft that entered the zone without first informing China. Several countries in the region expressed immediate outrage, and the ADIZ became a major topic during Vice President Joseph Biden’s three-leg tour to Asia.
As tensions heat up, this Policy Alert examines the reactions of China, Japan, South Korea, and India to these emerging developments.
Chinese editorials uniformly supported establishment of the ADIZ as “defensive” in nature while simultaneously lambasting Japan and the United States for holding double standards in their views of air defense identification zones: (more…)Continue Reading →
Negotiators from Iran and the so-called P5+1 powers – the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany – announced on November 24 that they reached a deal to address suspicions over Iran’s nuclear activities. In exchange for Iran freezing key elements of its nuclear program, the P5+1 offered $4.2 billion in foreign exchange and to ease some sanctions on Iranian energy and economic sectors for the next six months. The deal aims to be a sign of good faith between all parties as talks on a broader permanent deal continue.
This announcement sparked a dialogue within countries in Asia with their own varying levels of nuclear capacity. Since Iran’s primary foreign buyers of its oil are China, South Korea, Taiwan, India, and Japan, the agreement provides additional avenues for increased energy trade between Asia and Iran. However, the deal also opens up questions about the intersections of nuclear energy, nonproliferation policies, and regional security in Asia. In this Nuclear Debates in Asia Digest by Timothy Westmyer, research and program assistant at RPI, we explore how countries in our Nuclear Debates in Asia project – China, India, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam – reacted to the Iran-P5+1 nuclear deal and how they are addressing these pressing questions.
China, India, South Korea, and Thailand were among countries which recently received a waiver from U.S. sanctions targeting countries that import Iranian crude oil because these countries have reduced their dependence on Iranian supplies over the past several months. They will be allowed to continue to purchase Iranian oil over the next 180 days without penalties.
China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, said the agreement “will help to uphold the international nuclear non-proliferation system [and] safeguard peace and stability in the Middle East.”
- -The Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang said it was a “mutually beneficial agreement which lives up to the broad expectation of the international community” and that “China will continue to play a constructive role and actively promote peace talks.” (more…)