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South Korea, Japan defy Chinese air defense zone

By Christopher Bodeen

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 08:02 a.m. HST, Nov 28, 2013

BEIJING >> South Korean and Japanese flights through China's new maritime air defense zone added to the international defiance Thursday of rules Beijing says it has imposed in East China Sea but that neighbors and the U.S. have vowed to ignore.

While China's surprise announcement last week to create the zone initially raised some tensions in the region, analysts say Beijing's motive is not to trigger an aerial confrontation but is a more long-term strategy to solidify claims to disputed territory by simply marking the area as its own.

China's lack of a response so far to the flights -- including two U.S. B-52s that flew through the zone on Tuesday -- has been an embarrassment for Beijing. Even some Chinese state media outlets suggested Thursday that Beijing may have mishandled the episodes.

"Beijing needs to reform its information release mechanism to win the psychological battles waged by Washington and Tokyo," the Global Times, a nationalist tabloid published by the Communist Party's flagship People's Daily, said in an editorial.

Without prior notice, Beijing began demanding Saturday that passing aircraft identify themselves and accept Chinese instructions or face consequences in an East China Sea zone that overlaps a similar air defense identification zone overseen by Japan since 1969 and initially part of one set up by the U.S. military.

But when tested just days later by U.S. B-52 flights -- with Washington saying it made no effort to comply with China's rules, and would not do so in the future -- Beijing merely noted, belatedly, that it had seen the flights and taken no further action.

South Korea's military said Thursday its planes flew through the zone this week without informing China and with no apparent interference. Japan also said its planes have continuing to fly through it after the Chinese announcement, while the Philippines, locked in an increasingly bitter dispute with Beijing over South China Sea islands, said it also was rejecting China's declaration.

Analysts question China's technical ability to enforce the zone due to a shortage of early warning radar aircraft and in-flight refueling capability. However, many believe that China has a long-term plan to win recognition for the zone with a gradual ratcheting-up of warnings and possibly also eventual enforcement action.

"With regard to activity within the zone, nothing will happen -- for a while," said June Teufel Dreyer, a China expert at the University of Miami. "Then the zone will become gradually enforced more strictly. The Japanese will continue to protest, but not much more, to challenge it."

That may wear down Japan and effectively change the status quo, she said.

The zone is seen primarily as China's latest bid to bolster its claim over a string of uninhabited Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea -- known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Beijing has been ratcheting up its sovereignty claims since Tokyo's privatization of the islands last year.

But the most immediate spark for the zone likely was Japan's threat last month to shoot down drones that China says it will send to the islands for mapping expeditions, said Dennis Blasko, an Asia analyst at think tank CNA's China Security Affairs Group and a former Army attache in Beijing.

The zone comes an awkward time. Although Beijing's ties with Tokyo are at rock bottom, it was building good will and mutual trust with Washington following a pair of successful meetings between President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping. However, the zone feud now threatens to overshadow both the visit by Vice President Joe Biden to Beijing next week and one by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop expected before the end of the year.

China's defense and foreign ministries offered no additional clarification Thursday as to why Beijing failed to respond to the U.S. Air Force flights. Alliance partners the U.S. and Japan together have hundreds of military aircraft in the immediate vicinity.

China on Saturday issued a list of requirements for all foreign aircraft passing through the area, regardless of whether they were headed into Chinese airspace, and said its armed forces would adopt "defensive emergency measures" against aircraft that don't comply.

Beijing said the notifications are needed to help maintain air safety in the zone. However, the fact that China said it had identified and monitored the two U.S. bombers during their Tuesday flight seems to discredit that justification for the zone, said Rory Medcalf, director of the international security program at Australia's Lowy Institute

"This suggests the zone is principally a political move," Medcalf said. "It signals a kind of creeping extension of authority."

Along with concerns about confrontations or accidents involving Chinese fighters and foreign aircraft, the zone's establishment fuels fears of further aggressive moves to assert China's territorial claims -- especially in the hotly disputed South China Sea, which Beijing says belongs entirely to it.

Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun confirmed those concerns on Saturday by saying China would establish additional air defense identification zones "at an appropriate time."

For now, however, China's regional strategy is focused mostly on Japan and the island dispute, according to government-backed Chinese scholars.

China will continue piling the pressure on Tokyo until it reverses the decision to nationalize the islands, concedes they are in dispute, and opens up negotiations with Beijing, said Shen Dingli, a regional security expert and director of the Center for American Studies at Shanghai's Fudan University.

"China has no choice but to take counter measures," Shen said. "If Japan continues to reject admitting the disputes, it's most likely that China will take further measures."

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richierich wrote:
Sooner or later China will respond. I sincerely suspect that when that day comes we will wish we done so first.
on November 28,2013 | 05:49AM
cojef wrote:
Let the Chinese respond, we should stay out this mess. We have nothing to gain by sticking our necks out.
on November 28,2013 | 07:34AM
Anonymous wrote:
On the contrary, we have everything to lose by abandoning yet another ally.
on November 28,2013 | 07:51AM
Nevadan wrote:
What ally? Forgot Pearl Harbour? Brush up on your history. Iraq was a major blunder. History warned us about the balance of power. Iran was the balance to Iraq. Stay out of foreign wars.
on November 28,2013 | 08:26AM
purigorota wrote:
We should hate the Mexicans too. Remember the Alamo.
on November 28,2013 | 10:28AM
Nevadan wrote:
No one is suggesting that we ally with Mexico to attack another country. The message: stay out of foreign wars, unless attacked. We are already paying for two recent sins: Iraq and Afghanistan. Think, girl, use your head.
on November 28,2013 | 03:47PM
mitt_grund wrote:
Remember Tienanmen Square? The Central Committee and the PLO looked the other way initially. But as the students became emboldened and built their version of the Statue of Liberty, loss of face compelled action. And the response was swift and brutal. Still don't know what they did with the bodies.

You just didn't mess with Deng Xiaoping. But Li Xinping is a different quantity. Maybe he will look the other way, having asserted China's claim to territory lost in 1895, seized by Japan's copy cat (of the West) expansionism. But of course, if Japan and the USA continue to send warplanes over that territory, and begin to carry armament.

Ah, Japan wishing to reestablish its Empire, dragging the US in to yet another war. To again send its troops in kamikaze glory to seize Asia. This is the new Japanese nationalistic imperialism reasserting itself. Strains of "Un bel di" and Madame Butterfly. So, cute those little Asian munchkins.

Hopefully , no airliners will be shot down as innocent bystanders, as was done by North Korea.

on November 28,2013 | 07:50AM
localguy wrote:
mitt_grund - Let's not forget the time the Russians willfully shot down the Korean passenger jet that accidently strayed into Soviet air space. Soviet fighter pilots failed to identify the jet as an unarmed passenger plane and shot it down. Then realizing their utter failure, tried to blame it on a US reconnaissance jet not even close to the area. In the end Moscow admitted their incompetence, didn't have a clue what was going on. China has no excuse if a plane is shot down. You have to remember China as a purely virgin military, basically boys with new toys. No combat experience at any level. They also failed the time their fighter pilot tried to bump one of our P3 Orion aircraft. Fighter pilot died, our plan had to emergency land in China. The Chinese never did admit their incompetence but we all know the truth.
on November 28,2013 | 08:21AM
Nevadan wrote:
???? Plain ignorance.
on November 28,2013 | 08:35AM
Anonymous wrote:
plane ignorance!
on November 28,2013 | 09:57AM
Nevadan wrote:
Well said. Obama is diverting attention from his credibility problems at home.
on November 28,2013 | 08:31AM
9ronboz wrote:
No change at red china
on November 28,2013 | 08:11AM
manakuke wrote:
See what happens when you copy Big Brother too much. Another ‘line in the sandl?
on November 28,2013 | 08:16AM
hon2255 wrote:
We just need to take care of our own be more energy independent Key Japan and china argue it out themselves. We are not a policeman if the world.
on November 28,2013 | 10:46AM
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