China’s air defense zone: The shape of things to come?

By James Steinberg and Michael E. O'Hanlon
December 16, 2013

China’s announcement of an air defense identification zone (AIDZ) that covers substantial portions of the East China Sea has unleashed a storm of concern among China’s neighbors — as well as in the United States.

For China’s action reflects the deeper challenge now posed by its growing military capability and international activism. Vice President Joe Biden was on solid ground when he objected strenuously to this new air defense zone during his recent trip to the region.

Washington and Beijing each insists it wants to build a “new kind of major power relationship.” If they are to succeed, however, and enhance peace and stability across the region, they must develop new strategies to manage their growing tensions.

China defended its new defense zone by asserting that its actions are consistent with international law. Beijing’s arguments are unconvincing, however, because they don’t address the reasons why this particular air defense zone is so troubling.

In contrast with the usual defense zone — which helps build stability by reducing the chances of accidents based on mistaken identity — the unilateral and assertive nature of the new Chinese effort increases the risk of conflict.

Consider the underlying justification for an air defense zone and why it is an accepted practice. Under international law, a country’s sovereignty in airspace derives from its sovereignty over the territorial rights underneath. All airspace outside these boundaries is part of the global commons.

But this presents a dilemma. If countries cannot act against a potential threat from the air until it approaches within 12 miles of shore, the time to act is short. If there is ambiguity about an incoming aircraft’s intentions, there will be pressure to shoot first and ask questions later.

When tensions are high — particularly in this age of terrorism from the sky — the pressure to act increases. Even when the nature of the threat is unknown.

Enter the ADIZ. By pushing the boundary to identify aircraft headed for territorial space, there is more time to resolve ambiguities and avoid engagement of benign aircraft. A nation would have stronger justification for taking action against an unknown aircraft entering sovereign airspace if that aircraft failed to identify itself.

For an aircraft crossing the air defense zone, but not approaching territorial airspace, the failure to identify would be inconsequential since there would be no basis for taking action against it. So, by expanding the decision-making time and reducing the risk of mistake, ADIZs can increase stability consistent with a nation’s legitimate right of self-defense.

So shouldn’t we welcome China’s decision? No. Because China has not demonstrated that its goal is benign.

There are simple steps that Beijing could have taken to reassure its neighbors and the international community. First, China could have consulted with others before imposing the ADIZ and explained its rationale.

Second, China could have made clear how it intends to implement the zone. Beijing could have explained, for example, that the zone’s geographic scope was focused on approaches to the mainland, that China was not asserting sovereignty in ADIZ, that it was not claiming the right to engage non-compliant aircraft in international airspace, and that any patrols in the ADIZ would be unarmed to monitor (and if necessary, cue territorial air defense assets) if an unidentified aircraft entered China’s airspace.

By failing to provide reassurance, China has given other nations justification to draw less benign conclusions. They could view this as the latest chapter in Beijing’s attempt to unilaterally alter the status quo in connection with its local territorial disputes. In doing so, China has prompted its neighbors to respond in ways that heighten the risk of conflict, such as instructing civilian aircraft not to comply.

Because China offered no reassurance, the United States acted appropriately in demonstrating a resolve not to acquiesce in this destabilizing action.  Washington must, however, provide its own reassurance. It should communicate in advance U.S. intent to exercise its rights for legitimate military transits — in ways that cannot be construed as a threat to China.

Washington, for example, could communicate the general nature of air transit, though not necessarily the specific flight plan. Such transparency would vindicate U.S. rights, while reducing the risk of accidents or destabilizing action-reaction cycles. It would be better to use fighters or long-range patrol aircraft to assert this principle, rather than long-range bombers like the B-52 — which could be viewed as an implicit threat to China’s territorial rights.

Even as we push back against Beijing’s decision, Washington should consider other measures to provide appropriate reassurance about each side’s intentions.

The United States and China could, for example, adopt an Open Skies regimen, modeled on the U.S.-Russian experience, flying unarmed and pre-approved reconnaissance sorties as a way of building trust.

Without such proactive thinking about how to relieve growing tensions from China’s ascendance in international power and stature, we are likely to confront many more crises like this — or worse — in the years and decades ahead.

 

PHOTO (TOP): U.S. Navy FA-18 Hornets park on the flight deck of the USS George Washington during the Annual Exercise 2013, at sea November 28, 2013. While the Navy would not confirm the exact coordinates, they said the event took place, at one point at least, in the general vicinity, though not within, the China’s new airspace defense zone China. REUTERS/Kyodo

PHOTO (INSERT): A Chinese military plane Y-8 airborne early warning plane flies through airspace between Okinawa prefecture’s main island and the smaller Miyako island in southern Japan, over the Pacific, in this handout photo taken on October 27, 2013. REUTERS/Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan/Handout via Reuters

9 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

We noticed that China, although they are Communists, did not name the first lunar spacecrafts any political names like Mao or Red Flag, or East Wind, etc. They only used the names of Chinese Goddess of Moon and her rabbit pet from the Chinese mythology of a classical love tragedy. Most recently the new and young Chinese Communist leader Xi Jin Ping was publicly reading the Confucius classics which emphasized on the human love, contrary to the Communist dogmas. We hope that they will gradually abandon the Communist ideology and policies and give more individual freedom and love to their people. Their conflicts with Japan was caused by the horrible war crimes by Japan who continuously denies their invasions to China and Korea in the Second World War. Disregarding the unconditional surrender of Japan and the Yalta Treaty limiting Japan to her four major islands, U.S. passed over the administration of Diaoyu island to Japan without acknowledging Japan’s sovereignty is an obvious act to provoke the Sino-Japanese conflicts. Therefore, China is always in a defensive mode in the past several thousands of years of history until now. It is not completely their fault in the most recent conflicts, especially Japan was the first one unilaterally announced thousands of miles of air defense zone AIDZ in 1970s, close to the coast of China.

Posted by CP12192 | Report as abusive

I think the Chinese are playing into the Americans hands. Much of the USCA desperately wants an arms race with China (or anyone for that matter). I hope the Chinese are not willing partners in that game.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

NSA and JNLWD are partnering with Virginia State Police and local police implanting people with biochips. Read “A Note on Uberveillance” by M. G. and Katina Michael. it enables Uberveillance. “In its ultimate form, überveillance has to do with more than automatic identification technologies that we carry with us. It has to do with under-the-skin technology that is embedded in the body, such as microchip implants; it is that which cuts into the flesh – a charagma (mark). Think of it as Big Brother on the inside looking out.” Newport News Police and Virginia State Police had a doctor implant me w/o my knowledge and consent with a biochip. A U. S. Attorney for the NSA/DOJ pretended to be my attorney. It enables torture and thought monitoring. They use it as a sensor and pulse energy projectiles at you. I had a heart attack. It enables voice to skull communication. See LRAD white papers or audio spotlight by Holosonics. Law enforcement believes we will only be safe if they know where we are at all times, what we are doing and what we are thinking! See Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence by Springer page 9. See Mental Health and Terrorism by Amin Gadit. He states, “Of late, there are reports of a new and dreadful invention of weapons of violence that are called Bioelectromagnetic Weapons. According to the description by an Institute of Science in Society, these weapons operate at the speed of light, can kill, torture and enslave without making physical appearance. It further adds that voices and visions, daydreams and nightmares are the most astonishing manifestations of this weapon system, it is also capable of crippling the human subject by limiting his/her normal range of movement, causing acute pain the equivalent of major organ failure or even death and interferes with normal functions of human senses. It can cause difficulty with breathing and induce seizures besides damage to the tissues and organs. Through this form of terrorism, it is possible to persuade subjects that their mind is being read; their intellectual property is being plundered and can even motivate suicide or murder. Pulsed Energy projectiles (PEPs) are another form of weaponry that is used to paralyze a victim with pain. According to Peter Philips, a scientist from USA, circumstances may soon arrive in which anti-war or human right protestors suddenly feel a burning sensation akin to touching a hot skillet over their entire body. Simultaneously they may hear terrifying nauseating screaming, which while not produced externally, fills their brains with overwhelming disruption. This new invention is dreadful addition to the armamentarium of weapons of abuse and torture. Manifestations of the effects of these occult weapons can mimic mental ill health and add further to the misery of the victims.” See Bio Initiative Report 2012. See Forbes and search Brandon Raub. Law enforcement tases citizens into “excited delirium” (see at nij org) to make them act in ways they normally would not. I believe they are directly responsible for the Virginia Tech massacre. There are 3 reasons to have it implanted 1) mental health, 2) criminal record, and 3) infectious disease. If you don’t meet any of those requirements like me, they’ll falsify your records. All the mass shootings are the work of law enforcement. They want to take away your right to bear arms and make America a police state. People aren’t suddenly going crazy, they’re being tortured. I also believe the biochip to be responsible for PTSD. Read Brian Castner’s book “A Long Walk”. I have the same ambiguous pains, twitches, heart attack, night mares, day mares, gurgling, etc. I never served in the war. What do we have in common? The biochip. Suicide is one way to get relief. Virginia’s suicide rate is higher than the national average and the military suicide rate is unacceptable! You can check your upper right buttock, upper right shoulder. They are just under the skin.

Posted by SJmithB | Report as abusive

NSA and JNLWD are partnering with Virginia State Police and local police implanting people with biochips. Read “A Note on Uberveillance” by M. G. and Katina Michael. it enables Uberveillance. “In its ultimate form, überveillance has to do with more than automatic identification technologies that we carry with us. It has to do with under-the-skin technology that is embedded in the body, such as microchip implants; it is that which cuts into the flesh – a charagma (mark). Think of it as Big Brother on the inside looking out.” Newport News Police and Virginia State Police had a doctor implant me w/o my knowledge and consent with a biochip. A U. S. Attorney for the NSA/DOJ pretended to be my attorney. It enables torture and thought monitoring. They use it as a sensor and pulse energy projectiles at you. I had a heart attack. It enables voice to skull communication. See LRAD white papers or audio spotlight by Holosonics. Law enforcement believes we will only be safe if they know where we are at all times, what we are doing and what we are thinking! See Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence by Springer page 9. See Mental Health and Terrorism by Amin Gadit. He states, “Of late, there are reports of a new and dreadful invention of weapons of violence that are called Bioelectromagnetic Weapons. According to the description by an Institute of Science in Society, these weapons operate at the speed of light, can kill, torture and enslave without making physical appearance. It further adds that voices and visions, daydreams and nightmares are the most astonishing manifestations of this weapon system, it is also capable of crippling the human subject by limiting his/her normal range of movement, causing acute pain the equivalent of major organ failure or even death and interferes with normal functions of human senses. It can cause difficulty with breathing and induce seizures besides damage to the tissues and organs. Through this form of terrorism, it is possible to persuade subjects that their mind is being read; their intellectual property is being plundered and can even motivate suicide or murder. Pulsed Energy projectiles (PEPs) are another form of weaponry that is used to paralyze a victim with pain. According to Peter Philips, a scientist from USA, circumstances may soon arrive in which anti-war or human right protestors suddenly feel a burning sensation akin to touching a hot skillet over their entire body. Simultaneously they may hear terrifying nauseating screaming, which while not produced externally, fills their brains with overwhelming disruption. This new invention is dreadful addition to the armamentarium of weapons of abuse and torture. Manifestations of the effects of these occult weapons can mimic mental ill health and add further to the misery of the victims.” See Bio Initiative Report 2012. See Forbes and search Brandon Raub. Law enforcement tases citizens into “excited delirium” (see at nij org) to make them act in ways they normally would not. I believe they are directly responsible for the Virginia Tech massacre. There are 3 reasons to have it implanted 1) mental health, 2) criminal record, and 3) infectious disease. If you don’t meet any of those requirements like me, they’ll falsify your records. All the mass shootings are the work of law enforcement. They want to take away your right to bear arms and make America a police state. People aren’t suddenly going crazy, they’re being tortured. I also believe the biochip to be responsible for PTSD. Read Brian Castner’s book “A Long Walk”. I have the same ambiguous pains, twitches, heart attack, night mares, day mares, gurgling, etc. I never served in the war. What do we have in common? The biochip. Suicide is one way to get relief. Virginia’s suicide rate is higher than the national average and the military suicide rate is unacceptable! You can check your upper right buttock, upper right shoulder. They are just under the skin.

Posted by SJmithB | Report as abusive

NSA and JNLWD are partnering with Virginia State Police and local police implanting people with biochips. Read “A Note on Uberveillance” by M. G. and Katina Michael. it enables Uberveillance. “In its ultimate form, überveillance has to do with more than automatic identification technologies that we carry with us. It has to do with under-the-skin technology that is embedded in the body, such as microchip implants; it is that which cuts into the flesh – a charagma (mark). Think of it as Big Brother on the inside looking out.” Newport News Police and Virginia State Police had a doctor implant me w/o my knowledge and consent with a biochip. A U. S. Attorney for the NSA/DOJ pretended to be my attorney. It enables torture and thought monitoring. They use it as a sensor and pulse energy projectiles at you. I had a heart attack. It enables voice to skull communication. See LRAD white papers or audio spotlight by Holosonics. Law enforcement believes we will only be safe if they know where we are at all times, what we are doing and what we are thinking! See Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence by Springer page 9. See Mental Health and Terrorism by Amin Gadit. He states, “Of late, there are reports of a new and dreadful invention of weapons of violence that are called Bioelectromagnetic Weapons. According to the description by an Institute of Science in Society, these weapons operate at the speed of light, can kill, torture and enslave without making physical appearance. It further adds that voices and visions, daydreams and nightmares are the most astonishing manifestations of this weapon system, it is also capable of crippling the human subject by limiting his/her normal range of movement, causing acute pain the equivalent of major organ failure or even death and interferes with normal functions of human senses. It can cause difficulty with breathing and induce seizures besides damage to the tissues and organs. Through this form of terrorism, it is possible to persuade subjects that their mind is being read; their intellectual property is being plundered and can even motivate suicide or murder. Pulsed Energy projectiles (PEPs) are another form of weaponry that is used to paralyze a victim with pain. According to Peter Philips, a scientist from USA, circumstances may soon arrive in which anti-war or human right protestors suddenly feel a burning sensation akin to touching a hot skillet over their entire body. Simultaneously they may hear terrifying nauseating screaming, which while not produced externally, fills their brains with overwhelming disruption. This new invention is dreadful addition to the armamentarium of weapons of abuse and torture. Manifestations of the effects of these occult weapons can mimic mental ill health and add further to the misery of the victims.” See Bio Initiative Report 2012. See Forbes and search Brandon Raub. Law enforcement tases citizens into “excited delirium” (see at nij org) to make them act in ways they normally would not. I believe they are directly responsible for the Virginia Tech massacre. There are 3 reasons to have it implanted 1) mental health, 2) criminal record, and 3) infectious disease. If you don’t meet any of those requirements like me, they’ll falsify your records. All the mass shootings are the work of law enforcement. They want to take away your right to bear arms and make America a police state. People aren’t suddenly going crazy, they’re being tortured. I also believe the biochip to be responsible for PTSD. Read Brian Castner’s book “A Long Walk”. I have the same ambiguous pains, twitches, heart attack, night mares, day mares, gurgling, etc. I never served in the war. What do we have in common? The biochip. Suicide is one way to get relief. Virginia’s suicide rate is higher than the national average and the military suicide rate is unacceptable! You can check your upper right buttock, upper right shoulder. They are just under the skin.

Posted by SJmithB | Report as abusive

China’s aggressive stance doesn’t make sense, except as a bluff. Their economy is dependent on importing petroleum and exporting contract-manufactured goods. At the same time, they have a navy with one aircraft carrier that doesn’t have any planes. Putting those factors together makes them extremely vulnerable to a naval blockade of their major port cities in the event of any actual conflict. Thus, the only way China’s recent conduct makes sense is if they assume no one will notice that they cannot prevail in the event of actual conflict. In poker, they call this “bluffing at the pot,” which refers to a player with a weak hand betting everything he has on the table in hopes that the show of confidence will lead the other players to fold. In real life, however, militaries can see each other’s hands, and China does not have one that can win.

Posted by Bob9999 | Report as abusive

If You ever want to have an unbiased opinion about anything that relates to US-China relations just substitute US with China and China with US, it always works. Overfly of Chinese bombers near US coast ? Nuke them all, WW3 etc.
Chinese ADIZ rules is copycat of US ADIZ rules, I think there is even violation of US military copyright here ;-)))(US ADIZ was implemented without any consultation 50 years ago, US aims were beingn, Chinese do exactly the same, why do you think theirs are evil ?).
Unfortunately for many the world has changed, why country that will have bigger economy than US, in a few years, cannot have equal rights ?
Of course it is sth new for US as it is the first time since 1870 that it occurs but it is a fact.

Posted by Wantunbiasednew | Report as abusive

Today Reuters started a PAID series called “Breakout-inside China’s military buildup.” The USA will stop at nothing now to start a cold war and arms race with China. The US sees the third plenum as an economic “attack”. We know we can’t beat them economically, so we will use our grand Military. You will see many, many more propaganda articles about how evil china is over the next 18 months to garner public support. Remember what we did in the Iran/Contra affair. We are quite capable of staging events. For you political junkies, this campaign will help put a republican in office too.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

‘Chinese ADIZ rules is copycat of US ADIZ rules… ‘

Exact-o-mundo!

Posted by invest_mavin | Report as abusive