On November 23, 2013, Beijing’s Ministry of National defense issued a declaration creating an ADIZ. The ADIZ covered the following posts: 33°11'N (North Latitude) and 121°47'E (East Longitude), 33°11'N and 125°00'E, 31°00'N and 128°20'E, 25°38'N and 125°00'E, 24°45'N and 123°00'E, 26°44'N and 120°58'E. The Diaoyu Islands fall within the ADIZ. As a result, both China’s ADIZ and Japan’s overlap each other in the East China Sea. It is not surprising that Japan expressed its strong “protest” asking Beijing to rescind the declaration. The Pentagon also issued the following statement by Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense, by saying:
The United States is deeply concerned by the People's Republic of China announcement today that it is establishing an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea. We view this development as a destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo in the region. This unilateral action increases the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculations. This announcement by the People's Republic of China will not in any way change how the United States conducts military operations in the region. The United States is conveying these concerns to China through diplomatic and military channels, and we are in close consultation with our allies and partners in the region, including Japan. We remain steadfast in our commitments to our allies and partners. The United States reaffirms its longstanding policy that Article V of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Defense Treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands (U.S. Department of Defense, 23 November 2013, http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=16392).
Thereafter, Zheng Zeguang, Assistant Foreign Minister, urged Gary Locke, U.S. Ambassador in China, for the U.S. to correct its “mistakes” immediately and stop making remarks irresponsibly (Xinhua News, 25 November 2013). Similarly, Chinese Defense Ministry summoned with the military attaché of the U.S. embassy in China in the evening of November 24, according to Ministry spokesman, “The current situation over the Diaoyu Islands was completely caused by the wrong words and deeds of the Japanese side.” The U.S. “should not choose sides” over the issue and “make no more inappropriate remarks or send no wrong signal that may lead to risky move by Japan (Xinhua News, 25 November 2013).”
Source: Guofangbu website (accessed date: 23 November 2013).
Here are few interesting points regarding Sino-Japanese territorial disputes in the East China Sea (ECS) relating to the ADIZ. First, the ADIZ is aimed at the Diaoyu Islands and the oil/gas development in the EAS. This ADIZ has presented great difficulties for Japan (not necessary the U.S.) as it impacts Japan’s “unilateral” surveillance to Chinese activities including Chunxiao oil/gas field. Until now, Japan using its ADIZ has monitored China’s activities in the ECS; China has not done the same. Now, Beijing has reluctantly implemented the ADIZ because of the complicated Diaoyu Islands problem; the Middle Kingdom breaks basically “breakthrough” Japan’s “unilateral” actions in the ECS since “9/11” of 2012 when Tokyo “nationalized” the Diaoyu Islands. The ADIZ is one more step to force Japan to recognize that “there is a territorial disputes with China in the ECS,” which Japan has denied since 2010. On the surface, China is fighting with Japan; Beijing, however, is wrestling with Washington in the reality. As Hagel’s statement indicates, the United States has to protect the Diaoyu Islands due to the U.S.-Japan “security treaty.” As the Chinese Defense Ministry states, the ADIZ “allows early-warning time and helps China protect its sovereignty and territories, and guarantee regional air security.” That is, the purpose of the setting the ADIZ that also encompasses the Diaoyu Islands in the ECS. On the other hand, according to Yang Yujun, Ministry of National Defense spokesman, “It is not directed against any specific country or target. It does not affect the freedom of flights in the airspace.” The zone, in other words, does not affect international flights based on freedom of flights in the airspace (China Military Online, 25 November 2013). While true, the ADIZ is not really against any country, but Japan because Tokyo (not Washington or Seoul) has the territorial disputes with Beijing.
Second, the definition of the ADIZ is totally different for the West and China. Both ADIZs of the U.S. and Japan allow any flights to fly over their air zone. However, the ADIZs will not allow any flights to fly toward the local countries (e.g., Japan or the U.S.) unless the flights have submitted their flight plan in advance. In the case of the Chinese ADIZ, Beijing requires the submission of flight plans for any flights which are planning to fly through the air zone in advance, while the zone allows any commercial flights (e.g., Tokyo-Taipei route) to fly over. Some naïve Japanese scholars claim that Beijing violated international law. There is no basis in international law that the American “way” to set up the ADIZ, is correct, and the Chinese is not. As New York Times noticed on November 29, the Obama administration advised U.S. airlines to comply the Chinese requests if they are going to pass the area by saying
The U.S. government generally expects that U.S. carriers operating internationally will consistent with NOTAMs (Notices to Airmen) issue by foreign countries. Our expectation of operations by U.S. carriers consistent with NOTAMs does not indicate U.S. government acceptance of China’s requirements for operating in the newly declared ADIZ (U.S. Department of the State, 29 November 2013, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2013/11/218139.htm)
Even though Washington is not happy about the Beijing’s ADIZ, the U.S. has acquiesced to the Chinese ADIZ since there is no violation of the international law.
Third, there is the issue of the American double standard. As long as the U.S. and its allies are okay, Washington does not care anyone else in the world. Since there is no international law to regulate establishing an ADIZ, every country is able to protect its own rights by establishing an ADIZ. That is why Washington set up the ADIZ in 1950, Japan in 1969, and China 2013; as long as the country has ability to identify flights getting into the zone. The ECS is located in the Asian region, not an American backyard; the U.S. has played double standards. For instance, the U.S. dispatched two B-52 bombers to the East China Sea without informing Beijing on the night of November 25 from Guam, challenging the Chinese reaction. The following day, both Japan’s SDF planes and South Korean planes entered the ADIZ without telling Beijing. Similar to the American bombers, China made no response. Yet, Beijing, according to the Chinese defense Ministry, monitored the whole route of the B-52 in the beginning. As Global Times notices, “Nonetheless, it should be noted that the ADIZ has indeed give full play to its role of national defense. Tokyo and Washington are unlikely to accept China’s ADIZ through which Beijing will master all the US and Japanese military activities over the East China Sea. In actuality China will not inform them of its aircraft passing through their ADIZ (Global Times 28 November 2013).” The question is, does the U.S. have the “ultimate” right to tell China what Beijing can or cannot do in China’s front yard?
Finally, Japan has tried to leverage American “hegemony” against China’s action. Since China has not violated any international law, the U.S. should not intrude on the ADIZ, seeking American “hegemony” in the world. The fact that two bombers American bombers entered the Chinese ADIZ does not reflect that the U.S. is cooperating with Japan against China because these bombers were dispatched from Guam (not the U.S. bases in Japan) and return to the American soil, not American bases in Japan (BBC News 28 November 2013). As Tokyo has demanded Beijing to withdraw its ADIZ, Beijing has responded that “the Chinese government might consider rescinding its declaration after 44-years if Japan withdrew its zone first, setting up in 1969 (Yomiuri Shimbun 28 November 2013). Beijing has decided to safeguard its national territory of the Diaoyu Islands in the ECS.
The game of “chicken” has now started. In 1958, when Beijing declared the 12-miles territorial sea, Washington strongly opposed; the U.S. tested the 12-miles territorial sea by passing aircraft carriers through the Taiwan Straits. By the 1980s (in particular UNCLOS III), the majority nations in the world agreed with the 12-miles territorial sea; the U.S. did have choice, but to accept the 12-miles territorial sea in the end (the forthcoming book).