China and its Discontents

Immediate Thoughts on China’s ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone)

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First, it is already US policy to ignore the ADIZs of other countries if a plane does not intend to enter territorial airspace, and vice versa (for example, a plane flying parallel to a country’s territorial airspace):

“The United States does not recognize the right of a coastal nation to apply its ADIZ procedures to foreign aircraft not intending to enter national airspace nor does the United States apply its ADIZ procedures to foreign aircraft not intending to enter U.S. airspace. Accordingly, U.S. military aircraft not intending to enter national airspace should not identify themselves or otherwise comply with ADIZ procedures established by other nations, unless the United States has specifically agreed to do so.”

But while the establishment of a Chinese ADIZ may not deter the US from any actions, it might affect smaller players like Japan, South Korea, or others (if China decides to establish a South China Sea ADIZ).

Second, China has not been clear how the ADIZ will be enforced. Initial statements emphasized ‘scrambling PLAAF fighters’ to any and all undeclared planes in the ADIZ, but recent comments from a PLAN admiral suggests otherwise (that it operates similar to the US interpretation).

There have been relatively hyperbolic responses to this event, and more reasonable ones (from Jim Fallows and Rory Medcalf). The central problem is not the ADIZ itself (after all, many countries, including the US, have one), but the conditions under which it was established. China’s establishment of an ADIZ that includes the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands and one that requires identification from all planes, even those flying parallel to Chinese territory, is profoundly destabilizing and escalatory. China’s actions are ridiculous and it will probably get more than it bargained for. The US needs to make its existing policy crystal clear.

If on the other hand our PLAN admiral (above) is correct and China has simply set up an ADIZ that complies with international norms, then US and allied undeclared overflights should not bother China.

Written by Will

November 27th, 2013 at 8:54 pm