China flinches over B-52 flyby? Over the weekend, China declared an air defense identification zone, over an area of the China Sea that included islands owned by Japan, China, and Taiwan. They further stipulated that foreign aircraft passing through the area must first file flight plans. Needless to say, this, of course, ruffled international feathers and put some of the smaller nations in the region on edge. In response, not more than 72 hours later, the US sent two unarmed B-52s on a training run through the area without notifying China they were doing so and without identifying themselves. China observed and recorded the two warplanes, presumably to keep a tally of who was violating their ‘sovereign’ airspace.
In actuality, the zone covers already disputed territory between China and Japan and covers overlapping areas owned by Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. Many believe China is trying to extend its control beyond what they can legally claim internationally. At the urging of their government, Japan Airlines and ANA, the two main carriers, ceased submitting flight plans.
Beijing claims it’s exercising its right to defense, but others believe China is actually testing control of the region. Australia has protested the move but were reported to have been warned “not to damage their relations” by the use of incendiary words. Still, relations with Taiwan, Japan, and the US have become noticeably strained.
Of note, not soon after the flyover, China sent its only—and aged—aircraft carrier, through in the opposite direction of the islands into the South China Sea. That move understandably raised the hackles of the Philippines, Malaysia and other countries in the region. Overall, many people feel that the increase in chances for “incidents” to occur is just a little alarming. If the US runs more training missions through the disputed airspace, perhaps China will flinch as it may have done with the B-52 flyby and back down. There are already plans in place for joint US/Japan training exercises to be conducted in the disputed area.
Talk of China’s “disturbing pattern of behavior” between the US, Japan and other effected countries is high on the agenda and the US believes it’s up to China to dial down the tensions in the region. The training flight, which took off from Guam and crossed 1500 miles southwest deep into the ‘defense zone’ without so much as a warning may have eased tensions in the region some and muted Japan’s anger at the Chinese.
One has to wonder what China’s ultimate goal is. The region is rich in fishing and hydrocarbons. Are they ultimately seeking to control all of that? At what point does China make good on its threat to respond to continued incursions into its defense zone? What form would that response take? If and when it does happen, what then?
On the other side of the fence, Chinese bloggers vented about the violations and the military’s response—or lack thereof. They are wondering why they pay taxes to support the military, and then have to watch while something like this happens.
So, did China indeed flinch over the B-52 flyby?
By Lee Birdine