China announced recently that it has launched two warplanes in response to aircraft from other countries (including the United States) flying into their newly created maritime air defense zone located over the East China Sea.
The recently released report did not say for sure when the flights were dispatched or if they had run across foreign planes. Japan, South Korea, and the United States have said they have sent planes into the named area and had not run across any Chinese planes since the announcement of China’s newly named zone last week.
A Chinese official said that China’s planes will remain on alert and continue to be dispatched into this zone and do whatever is necessary to protect their airspace.
Originally, China caught the world by surprise and raised tension in the area when they announced the creation of the zone last week. However, most foreign experts say the announcement was not to flex military muscle but to enact a long range plan to mark the long disputed area as their own.
China’s noticeable disinterest in stopping the foreign planes that have recently flown through the zone has caused no small embarrassment to Beijing. Even some Chinese media outlets were suggesting that Beijing may have mishandled the episodes.
Many question China’s technological ability to back up their claims to the zone because of a lack of in-flight refueling capability and early warning radar aircraft. Still there are others that believe it is all part of China’s long term plan and eventually, they will be able to take actual steps to enforce.
The zone is seen by most as China’s most recent effort to give credibility to its claim over a series of deserted islands controlled by the Japanese and located in the East China Sea.
However, the most apparent reason for the zone came about because of Japan threatening last month to destroy any drones that China may send out for mapping editions of those islands.
The conflict over the zone could not come at a worse time as it now may very well overshadow two upcoming visits. Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to come to Beijing next week and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is expected to visit before the end of next month.
Last Saturday, China issued several requirements in order for any foreign aircraft to enter the area. They said they would authorize their military to adopt emergency defensive measures if an aircraft refused to comply with those requirements.
In addition to worries about confrontations or accidents between foreign aircraft and Chinese planes, the establishment of this zone adds to the fears of further aggressive action on the part of China to enforce claims to particular territories. This would especially apply to the South China Sea, of which Beijing claims total ownership.
Yang Yujun, a spokesman for the Chinese Defense Ministry gave credibility to those concerns this past weekend by saying that additional zones would be established when the Chinese government felt it was appropriate.
Currently, China’s strategy has Japan and the dispute over the islands as its main focus.
Security Expert Shen Dingli said that China will keep applying pressure on Tokyo until there is reversal of a decision on the nationalization of the islands, a concession that they are in dispute, and an opening up of negotiations with the Chinese.
The Chinese government is also expected to continue dispatching planes into the zone to as a show of force.
By Rick Hope