China’s establishment of an air identification defense zone in the East China Sea was not intended to trigger a conflict, but instead aims to preempt any tension from arising in the region, Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing said late Monday.
The envoy said that China just followed “relevant international regulation” and its “own regulation” in setting up the air zone, which has become a source of diplomatic muscle flexing in the past weeks.
“To my understanding, this is not China’s invention to set up air idenfitication zone. Since the last century in the 1950s, over 20 countries including major countries like the US and some neighboring countries like Japan and Korea, they have established air identification zones,” Ma added.
“The aviation flights can be registered or notified but this will not hinder the normal freedom of flight within this area,” she said.
The Philippines’ aviation agency said it is up to the airline companies if they will heed China’s request and submit flight details before flying over the zone. American airline companies such as Delta, United and American have provided China with their flight plans.
In November, China announced its air defense zone over waters and islands claimed by Beijing and Tokyo in the East China Sea. This received condemnation and protests from Japan as the zone overlaps over Tokyo’s own air defense zone.
The Japanese government turned to its ally, the United States, which has military bases in the country, for consultations on what actions to take regarding the new Chinese zone.
The United States showed its defiance of China’s new air defense zone by flying two B-52 bombers through the area, although Washington was clear that it’s intentions are not to exhibit its military strength against the regional superpower.
The exercise was described as a training mission, although analysts said US was clear in its message that it will not recognize the new territorial claims Beijing imposed over the weekend.
China did not respond to what Chinese netizens referred to as provocation and defiance from Washington.
The establishment of the air defense zone in the East China Sea is seen as a strategic move that might equate to Beijing moving on to its next target—the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), which it claims along with the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei Darussalam.
An air defense identification zone is an airspace over land or water in which the identification, control and location of civil aircraft is required because of one country’s national security. An air defense zone extends far beyond a country’s territory to give it more time to respond in case a foreign aircraft decided to attack that country.
Aside from Japan, China, Korea and the United States, other countries with air defense zones are Taiwan, Canada, India, Pakistan, Norway and the United Kingdom.
The establishment of an air defense zone is not government by any international body or treaty.
Beijing was incensed by Tokyo’s move to nationalize the chain of islands in the East China Sea in September 2012. The islands are called Senkakus by the Japanese and Diaoyus by the Chinese.
Chinese and Japanese coast guards have regularly confronted each other in the surrounding waters, with China being angered by Japan’s threat to shoot down Chinese surveillance vessels in the disputed waters.
The Senkaku Islands stretch out to a total of seven square kilometers, and is located northeast of Taiwan, east of mainland China and southwest of Okinawa.
The uninhabited chain of islands is close to major shipping lanes, offers rich fishing grounds and believed to contain oil deposits.
China’s claim is founded on ancient times while Japan incorporated the islands into its Nansei and Shoto islands back in 1985. BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON