US Bombers Provoke China, Risk International Incident
November 27, 2013
Al Jazeera America & Agence France-Presse & Al Jazeera America
Two US B-52 bombers flew over disputed islands in the East China Sea during a training mission Tuesday, defying new territorial claims laid out by China. While the US insisted the training mission was planned long ago and was not in reaction to China's latest declaration, it came just days after China issued a map and a new set of rules governing the zone, which includes a cluster of islands that are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China.
US B-52 Bombers Fly over
Newly Declared Chinese Airspace
Al Jazeera America & The Associated Press
(November 26, 2013) -- Two US B-52 bombers flew over disputed islands in the East China Sea during a training mission Tuesday, defying new territorial claims laid out by China over the weekend, according to several US officials.
The two unarmed bombers took off from Guam on Monday and were in the area for less than an hour, thundering across the Pacific skies around midday there, the officials said, adding that the aircraft encountered no problems.
While the US insisted the training mission was planned long ago and was not in reaction to China's latest declaration, it came just days after China issued a map and a new set of rules governing the zone, which includes a cluster of islands that are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China.
Beijing said on Saturday that all aircraft entering the new air defense zone must notify Chinese authorities and are subject to emergency military measures if they do not identify themselves or obey Beijing's orders.
US officials, however, said they have received no reaction to the bomber flights from the Chinese.
The mission underscores Washington's immediate rejection of Beijing's new rules. The US, which has hundreds of military aircraft based in the region, has said it has zero intention of complying. Japan, likewise, has called the zone invalid, unenforceable and dangerous, and Taiwan and South Korea, both close to the US, also rejected it.
China's move to further assert its territorial claims over the islands is not expected to immediately spark confrontations with foreign aircraft.
Beijing's announcement, which was greeted rapturously by hard-line Chinese nationalists, serves to keep the island controversy alive in service of Beijing's goal of forcing Tokyo to accept that the islands are in dispute — a possible first step to joint administration or sole Chinese control over them.
It also fits a pattern of putting teeth behind China's claims and could lead to dangerous encounters, depending on how vigorously China enforces it and how cautious it is if its planes intercept aircraft from Japan, the US and other countries.
Potential to Escalate
The declaration seems to have flopped as a foreign policy gambit. Analysts say Beijing may have miscalculated the forcefulness and speed with which its neighbors would reject its demands.
At least in the short term, the move undermines Beijing's drive for regional influence, said Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
"It doesn't serve Chinese interests to have tensions with so many neighbors simultaneously," she said.
Denny Roy, a security expert at the East-West Center in Hawaii, said China's enforcement will likely be mostly rhetorical at first.
"The Chinese can now start counting and reporting what they call Japanese violations while arguing that the Chinese side has shown great restraint by not exercising what they will call China's right to shoot and arguing further that China cannot be so patient indefinitely," Roy said.
China faces practical difficulties because of gaps in its air-to-air refueling and early warning and control capabilities, presenting challenges in keeping its planes in the air and detecting foreign aircraft, according to Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor at Flightglobal magazine in Singapore.
Despite that, Beijing has shown no sign of backing down, just as it has continued to aggressively enforce its island claims in the South China Sea over strong protests from its neighbors.
China further complicated matters by not consulting others on the protocols it expects them to follow or the rules of engagement for Chinese pilots, said Ross Babbage, chair of Australia's Kokoda Foundation, a security think tank.
"This is the kind of situation that clearly has the potential to escalate," Babbage said.
US Opposes China's Air Defense Zone over Disputed Islands
Al Jazeera America
(November 23, 2013) -- The United States has conveyed strong concerns to China regarding an escalation in regional tensions over territorial claims in the East China Sea, the White House said Saturday.
The White House statement came hours after the Chinese Defense Ministry issued a map of an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that includes a chain of islands also claimed by Japan. The map’s release also triggered a protest from Tokyo.
Beijing issued a set of rules for the zone, saying all aircraft in the area must notify Chinese authorities and are subject to emergency military measures if they do not identify themselves or obey orders from Beijing. The Chinese government said it would "identify, monitor, control and react" to any air threats or unidentified aircraft approaching from the sea.
The rules went into effect Saturday.
"This unilateral action constitutes an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea. Escalatory action will only increase tensions in the region and create risks of an incident," Secretary of State John Kerry said in a State Department news release emailed to Al Jazeera.
"We don't support efforts by any State to apply its ADIZ procedures to foreign aircraft not intending to enter its national airspace," Kerry said. "We have urged China to exercise caution and restraint, and we are consulting with Japan and other affected parties, throughout the region."
The White House issued a similar statement, saying the US was "concerned" that China’s move would worsen tensions in the region. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the zone will not "change how the United States conducts military operations in the region.”
In Tokyo, Junichi Ihara, head of the Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, protested by phone to China's acting ambassador to Japan, Han Zhiqiang, saying the zone is "totally unacceptable," according to a ministry statement.
Ihara also criticized China for "one-sidedly" setting up the zone and escalating bilateral tensions over the islands.
Both Beijing and Tokyo claim the islets, called Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese. Protests erupted throughout China last year to denounce the Japanese government's purchase of the islands from private ownership.
A rising economic and military power, China has become more assertive over its maritime claims. It has been in disputes with several neighboring countries over islands in the East and South China seas.
"By establishing the air defense zone Beijing has … potentially escalated the danger of accidental collisions between the Chinese military and the US and Japanese counterparts," said Tomohiko Taniguchi, a counselor in the office of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. "It poses a serious challenge against freedom of movement in the sky and in the seas."
China said the zone is in line with the practice of other nations that have similar zones to protect their coasts. The new zone overlaps with Japan's existing one, which also includes the disputed islands.
"This is a necessary measure taken by China in exercising its self-defense right," Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun was quoted as saying on the ministry's website. "It is not directed against any specific country or target. It does not affect the freedom of over-flight in the related airspace."
Other governments including Taiwan also have territorial claims that overlap with China’s in the region.
Al Jazeera and wire services
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