Sunday, November 24, 2013

China flexes muscles - expands air defense map to include Diaoyu islands ..... US vows to defend Japan if the air zone dispute sparks a crisis ....

China expands their air defense map to include Diaoyu Islands


China has made yet another move which is ratcheting up the tension in that part of the world and is catching the attention of the United States Department of Defense. But instead of causing additional conflict with the US, this one is aggravating old problems with their neighbors in Japan. It involves some tiny spots of land in the middle of the ocean which I recently had to go read up on to even begin to grasp what was going on here. The crux of the story is that the Chinese have expanded their “air defense map” to include the disputed Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Saturday the United States is “deeply concerned” over China’s move to establish an air defense zone over a string of disputed islands in the East China Sea.
“We view this development as a destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo in the region,” Hagel said in a statement. “This unilateral action increases the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculations.”
The Associated Press reports that the Chinese Defense Ministry issued a map showing the new East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone, which encompasses what the Chinese call the Diaoyu islands.
Calling these islands “disputed” doesn’t really do the situation justice. We can’t even agree on the name of these desolate pieces of rock. The Chinese call them Diaoyu. The Japanese (who also claim them and supposedly bought them through private sale recently) call them the Senkaku Islands. Just to add more spice to the stew, Taiwan also claims ownership and calls them the Tiaoyutai Islands. In English they’re known as the Pinnacle Isles. Heck, the United States even briefly owned them after the surrender of Japan in WW2 and we still use one of them as a bombing range.
The islands are deserted, with three of the eight of them being nothing more than bald lumps of rock sticking out of the ocean. The Japanese have claimed primary rights over them for most of the modern era and they tried operating a fish processing center there in the early part of the last century, but it failed and the place has been deserted for more than 70 years. Really, unless you have an unhealthy fascination with migratory birds or a few starving sheep, one wonders why anyone would even care about them. Except, of course, for the fact that somebody determined that there might be oil offshore of them back in the seventies.
So now China is essentially claiming that the islands are part of their country. Given their view of Taiwan’s status, they don’t factor into it. Japan doesn’t recognize the government of Taiwan, but we do. And of course, Japan claims they own the rocks outright. It’s all a complicated mess which probably would never have come up if it weren’t for the oil or the fact that any time a piece of volcanic ash peeks above the waves for more than five minutes, somebody has to stick a flag on it. But it’s still worth watching since it may continue to raise the temperature of the already problematic relationship between China and Japan, along with the latter’s recent interest in stepping up their military capabilities after seventy years of letting us worry about it.
On an only possibly, tangentially related front, are the Chinese expanding their capabilities in the air for the 21st century? By some amazing coincidence I’m sure, their new weaponized drone looks exactly like one of ours. What are the odds? Check out the video.
Shocking, I know.

U.S. vows to defend Japan if China air zone sparks crisis

Kerry urges restraint amid latest escalation

The United States said Saturday it was “deeply concerned” and committed to defending Japan after China announced an air zone in the East China Sea that covers disputed islets.
In a move that U.S. ally Japan branded as “very dangerous,” China said it was setting up an “air defense identification zone” over islands administered by Tokyo to “guard against potential air threats.”
In similar statements, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that the United States was “deeply concerned” about the moves by China, which also scrambled jets to carry out a patrol in the newly declared zone.
“This unilateral action constitutes an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea,” Kerry said.
“Escalatory action will only increase tensions in the region and create risks of an incident,” the top U.S. diplomat said from Geneva, where he was taking part in talks on reaching an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program.
Kerry said that the United States has urged China to “exercise caution and restraint,” and warned Beijing against implementing its new zone.
“We urge China not to implement its threat to take action against aircraft that do not identify themselves or obey orders from Beijing,” Kerry said.
Hagel repeated that the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands — which the Chinese and Taiwanese claim as Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively — are covered by the U.S.-Japan security treaty, meaning the U.S. would defend its ally if the area is attacked.
“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,” Hagel said.
The defense chief made clear that the United States, which stations more than 70,000 troops in Japan and South Korea, will not respect China’s declaration of control over the zone.
“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,” Hagel said.
The outline of the zone, which is shown on the Chinese Defense Ministry website and a state media Twitter account (, covers a wide area of the East China Sea between South Korea and Taiwan that includes airspace above the disputed islets.
Japan last year nationalized some of the islets and has vowed not to cede sovereignty or even to acknowledge a dispute with China, accusing its growing neighbor of trying to change the status quo through intimidation.
China and Taiwan both claim the islets, which are near potentially energy-rich waters.
The United States says that it has no position on the islets’ ultimate sovereignty but believes that they are currently under Japanese administration.
“Freedom of overflight and other internationally lawful uses of sea and airspace are essential to prosperity, stability and security in the Pacific,” Kerry said.
He called for a “more collaborative and less confrontational future in the Pacific.”
The U.S. , for its part, does not ask foreign aircraft to identify themselves if they are not intending to enter U.S. airspace.
U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged a greater focus on Asia in light of China’s rise and plans to shift the majority of U.S. warships to the Asia-Pacific by 2020.
Obama plans to visit Asia, reportedly including Japan, in April. Kerry, who has invested much of his time on the Middle East, will travel to Asia in the coming weeks.

Military experts explain China's air defense identification zone   2013-11-23 18:18:27             
East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (Source:
BEIJING, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- Military experts on Saturday said that the establishment of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone accords with international common practices.
Military expert Meng Xiangqing said that a country has the right to decide on its own whether or how to set up such zones, without getting permission from other countries, if the move does not violate international laws, breach other countries' territorial sovereignty or affect the freedom of flight.
Military expert Yin Zhuo said that China's establishment of the zone is based on the need to tackle a more complex security environment, and the move is a justified act to maintain the sovereignty and security of the country's territory and airspace.
On Saturday morning, the Chinese government issued a statement on establishing the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. It also issued an announcement on the aircraft identification rules and a diagram for the zone.
According to Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun, an air defense identification zone is established by a maritime nation to guard against potential air threats. This airspace is demarcated outside the territorial airspace and allows the country to set aside time for early warning and helps defend the country's airspace.
Since the United States established the first air defense identification zone in 1950, more than 20 countries and regions have set up such zones.
Experts said that the announcement of the details of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone is an important step in increasing military transparency.
Zhang Junshe, a military expert, said that the demarcation of the zone will not only increase the country's air defense early warning ability, but also avoid military misjudgements with foreign aircraft.
Foreign aircraft should report their flights and follow other regulations if they enter the zone, Zhang said.
"That is an important measure for the two sides to understand the situation on the sea and in the airspace in a timely manner," he said.
Yin said that based on different situations, China will take timely measures to deal with air threats and unidentified flying objects from the sea, including identification, monitoring, control and disposition.