U.S. vows to defend Japan if China air zone sparks crisis

Kerry urges restraint amid latest escalation


The United States said Saturday it was “deeply concerned” and committed to defending Japan after China announced an air zone in the East China Sea that covers disputed islets.

In a move that U.S. ally Japan branded as “very dangerous,” China said it was setting up an “air defense identification zone” over islands administered by Tokyo to “guard against potential air threats.”

In similar statements, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that the United States was “deeply concerned” about the moves by China, which also scrambled jets to carry out a patrol in the newly declared zone.

“This unilateral action constitutes an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea,” Kerry said.

“Escalatory action will only increase tensions in the region and create risks of an incident,” the top U.S. diplomat said from Geneva, where he was taking part in talks on reaching an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program.

Kerry said that the United States has urged China to “exercise caution and restraint,” and warned Beijing against implementing its new zone.

“We urge China not to implement its threat to take action against aircraft that do not identify themselves or obey orders from Beijing,” Kerry said.

Hagel repeated that the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands — which the Chinese and Taiwanese claim as Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively — are covered by the U.S.-Japan security treaty, meaning the U.S. would defend its ally if the area is attacked.

“We are in close consultation with our allies and partners in the region, including Japan. We remain steadfast in our commitments to our allies and partners,” Hagel said.

The defense chief made clear that the United States, which stations more than 70,000 troops in Japan and South Korea, will not respect China’s declaration of control over the zone.

“This announcement by the People’s Republic of China will not in any way change how the United States conducts military operations in the region,” Hagel said.

The outline of the zone, which is shown on the Chinese Defense Ministry website and a state media Twitter account (pic.twitter.com/4a2vC6PH8O), covers a wide area of the East China Sea between South Korea and Taiwan that includes airspace above the disputed islets.

Japan last year nationalized some of the islets and has vowed not to cede sovereignty or even to acknowledge a dispute with China, accusing its growing neighbor of trying to change the status quo through intimidation.

China and Taiwan both claim the islets, which are near potentially energy-rich waters.

The United States says that it has no position on the islets’ ultimate sovereignty but believes that they are currently under Japanese administration.

“Freedom of overflight and other internationally lawful uses of sea and airspace are essential to prosperity, stability and security in the Pacific,” Kerry said.

He called for a “more collaborative and less confrontational future in the Pacific.”

The U.S. , for its part, does not ask foreign aircraft to identify themselves if they are not intending to enter U.S. airspace.

U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged a greater focus on Asia in light of China’s rise and plans to shift the majority of U.S. warships to the Asia-Pacific by 2020.

Obama plans to visit Asia, reportedly including Japan, in April. Kerry, who has invested much of his time on the Middle East, will travel to Asia in the coming weeks.

  • Testerty

    LOL. What is the status quo currently? It is the Chinese ADIZ. So let leave it as it is. Agreed?

    • Michael Williams


      Do you even understand what an ADIZ is? I’m a Commercial Pilot and a Master Flight Instructor, so I will enlighten you. It is a zone of airspace in which any aircraft must have filed a flight plan to enter. Here in the US, if you enter the ADIZ without a defense flight plan, you will be intercepted, and if you refuse to comply, you can be shot down.

      So this is the issue, the Chinese are implementing this airspace as an excuse to exercise air superiority over Japanese territory. This airspace did not exist previously and its sole purpose is to enforce Chinese sovereignty over the Senkakus. It is a direct challenge to the status quo and it creates an extremely volatile situation.

      I have Chinese friends and students, they are great people and I like them, but I do not trust the Chinese government. They poisoning their own people with rampant pollution, they violate WTO trade regulations with illegal subsidies to gain an untouchable competitive advantage, they have stolen stupefying amounts of intellectual property including military technology, and they do not care about human rights.

      They are dangerous. They are also implementing the largest military build up since the 1930s, for what other purpose do you think they are doing so? They have taken vast swathes of territory from their neighbors because of “ancestral claims” and every country but Japan has bowed to China. Since they are not getting their way, they have decided to escalate the situation and they are provoking two countries that will not capitulate to them. This is a recipe for a miscalculation that can lead to conflict that China is not in a position to win and the fact they are a nuclear power makes that a very scary scenario.

      • Testerty

        Well, who died and made Japan the king of these international air space? If you are a commercial pilot, just file your flight plan with both China and Japan. Otherwise don’t cry when you are subjected to challenge. If you want to complain, file it with US, who started this ADIZ bullshitz.

    • JimmyJM

      Problem is, the only people who recognize the Chinese ADIZ are your employers in Beijing.

    • Nixonfan

      LOL. What is the status quo currently? It is Taiwan, a democratic state. So leave it as it is, agreed?

  • Unusual Clarity

    Now, now, boys and girls. Let’s all play nice and share what we find in the sandbox. One tiny, uninhabited, island for each is fair. Well, ok, maybe two.

    • matimal

      china and Japan aren’t children.

    • JimmyJM

      Nice but it won’t work. First, it’s the waters around the islands that have Beijing’s interest both for the riches they MAY contain and as sea lanes for its military adventurism. remember, nobody cared about those islands except the Japanese who built a fish processing plant on them (closed, not profitable) until the UN said there might be valuable sea life and minerals in the waters around them. Suddenly, Beijing took interest. This also helps the Chinese by stirring up nationalist feelings among the people (a great unifier as Sun Tzu wrote) and it takes their minds off the other problems with their government. Pity China has to risk a military showdown to do this.

  • DanJR

    or the 33 Stratagems. Deception is the art at play here. Don’t look at the right hand waving around, look at the left hand in the pocket.

  • DanJR

    From my research about 50% of the oil lays in the EEZ of Japan and about 50% elsewhere.

    There should be a way to create a joint-venture company from China, Japan, and Taiwan to just extract the oil evenly for all concerned parties…… that is what this about anyways as China desperately is trying to rape the resources of Africa and leave fragile roads and buildings that crumble after a year, it is quite clear to see their motive.

  • JAFO

    Sure he will…just like he stands with Israel…Japan you’re on your own …

  • shropster

    Red China has begun another “Long March” toward East Asian hegemony. They want to get the first bite of the Japanese apple as it is all beginning to fall apart for them.

  • Christian301180

    China- the biggest threat for world peace. Japan should finally move towards South Korea and Taiwan to form strong partnerships. As long as they are fighting with nearly every East Asian country about small Islands and their sad and problematic historic relationship China gets more and more aggressive. The more friends they hav in add to the US China will think twice attacking Japan or any other nation in South East Asia.

    • Fred G. Sandford

      Some happen to think that the US is the biggest threat for world peace. After all, China doesn’t have military basis in more than half the countries around the world and haven’t yet dropped any atomic bombs on anyone.

  • Testerty

    There should not be any crisis if Japan and US respect the Chinese ADIZ. All they need to do is to identify themselves whenever they approach China. There is no problem.

  • Directly it may look like against Japan but China is trying to send an indirect signal that they just do not worry about U.S. too.

  • Chris

    I would like to offer a perhaps simple solution and response to China’s recent escalatory action in the East China Sea . I offer this with a strong desire for world peace in my heart , but even peaceniks can be pragmatic .
    If China doesn’t withdraw their fly zone and cease confrontational actions in this zone how about if everyone in the U.S.A. , Japan , and Taiwan boycott Chinese goods for one week , two weeks , a month ?