Friday, November 29, 2013

China Scrambles Warplanes in Conflict Over Disputed East China Sea Airspace

This is an amazingly tense situation down there in the South China Sea.

The U.S. reportedly sent a B-52 squadron over the disputed territory, and here's this at the Los Angeles Times, "China scrambles jets to track U.S., Japanese planes in disputed zone":

In an escalation of the standoff over islands in the East China Sea, the Chinese Defense Ministry said Friday that it had scrambled two fighter jets to identify U.S. and Japanese planes flying through claimed airspace without notice.

It was the latest ratcheting of tension in the week since Beijing proclaimed an air defense identification zone over disputed islands known as the Diaoyu in China and as the Senkakus in Japan, which also claims sovereignty.

The two fighter jets dispatched by Beijing on Friday tracked and identified two U.S. reconnaissance planes and 10 Japanese surveillance and combat aircraft, the official New China News Agency reported.

"The [Chinese] air force has realized its effective normal monitoring of targets in the zone," said air force spokesman Shen Jinke, portraying the response to the unannounced foreign flyovers as a routine defensive operation.

Beijing's Nov. 23 proclamation of a national air defense zone covering most of the East China Sea and overlapping with airspace claimed by Japan and South Korea has prompted warnings that the action risks provoking conflict or accidental collisions.

The United States, Japan and South Korea have said they will not comply with China's demand that all aircraft entering the proclaimed zone file flight plans with Chinese authorities beforehand. Washington and its allies have flown several sorties into the region over the last week to demonstrate their rejection of China's unilateral claim to the islands.

The foreign military and commercial flights through the claimed zone have been criticized by Beijing as provocations.

"China's air force is on high alert and will take measures to deal with diverse air threats to firmly protect the security of the country's airspace," Shen said.

Despite Beijing's posturing over the new zone, Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said it was "incorrect" to see the patrolling and identification of intruding aircraft as a prelude to China shooting down unannounced flights, Reuters news agency reported from Beijing.

A Pentagon spokesman in Washington, Army Col. Steve Warren, said in response to the Chinese air scramble Friday that "the U.S. will continue to partner with our allies and will operate in the area as normal." White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday that the Chinese proclamation of a sovereign air zone over the Senkaku-Diaoyu islands was "unnecessarily inflammatory" and could have a "destabilizing impact on the region."

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to respond to the Chinese action "in a calm and resolute manner" and in consultation with the United States and other allies, NHK television reported. Abe's Liberal Democratic Party drafted a resolution Friday denouncing the Chinese move to assert authority over the region as "a serious challenge to the international community" that is unacceptable and should be immediately retracted, NHK said.
More at the Japan Times, "China's Aggressive Provocation":
Although Beijing said that the establishment of the ADIZ is not aimed at any country, it is clearly targeting Japan and its creation will increase regional tensions. Expressing a “deep concern” over China’s move, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that Washington regards it “as a destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo in the region” and that it “increases the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculations.” He also made it clear that Article V of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, which obliges the U.S. to defend Japan if it is attacked by a third country, applies to the Senkaku Islands. Beijing should not underestimate just how seriously Washington regards the latest development.
Oh, I don't know. America's allies used to count on the U.S. in tough times. But under this administration, not so much. Either way, Chinese assertiveness is not likely to cool off any time soon. The Obama White House has signaled to the international community that it's not going to bend over backwards in enforcing America's formerly vital national security interests. For now, B-52 flights provide a bit of distraction from events back home. And obviously, the Democrats can use all the distraction they can get right now.