China's bid to control Senkaku airspace 'violates law'

Tokyo cries foul over China’s declaration of air defense zone

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Beijing’s setting up an air defense identification zone over a section of the East China Sea violates a basic rule under international law and is a “very dangerous” move that could lead to “an unexpected event,” a high-ranking Japanese official warned Monday in Tokyo.

Specifically, Beijing’s ADIZ declaration “unfairly violates the freedom of flight in airspace over the high seas,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters during a daily news briefing regarding the continuing war of words between Beijing and Tokyo.

China’s declared ADIZ overlaps that of Japan’s over the Senkaku Islands, which are controlled by Japan but claimed by China.

This is also “totally unacceptable for Japan” and the declaration “will not have any effect on Japan,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe separately told an Upper House session the same day, according to media reports.

Japan lodged a “strong protest” with Beijing and demanded China scrap the air zone, Kato said.

Beijing and Tokyo have been in confrontation mode since China announced the ADIZ Saturday.

Japan has its own ADIZ covering its territorial airspace, but foreign aircraft are only “requested” to submit flight plans and relevant information in advance when they plan to “fly toward Japan’s territorial zone,” Kato pointed out.

But according to the Chinese Defense Ministry website, the ministry issued rules regarding the designated area, stipulating that “aircraft flying in the zone must abide by these rules and provide identification, including flight plans, radio contact, transponders and logos.”

“The regulations also require aircraft in the zone to follow instructions of the zone’s administrative organ or the unit authorized by the organ. China’s armed forces will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond to aircraft that do not cooperate in the identification or refuse to follow the instructions,” said a news report by the state-run Xinhua News Agency, which was carried by the ministry’s English-language website.

Foreign Ministry officials in Tokyo claimed China’s rules, unlike Japan’s, violate the basic rules of flight freedom in airspace over the high seas because Beijing is apparently intent on applying them to any aircraft flying within the ADIZ.

The Xinhua report quoted Wang Ji, a Chinese expert on domestic and international law from an institution affiliated with China’s air force, as saying the zone “is used to identify, monitor, control and react in a timely manner to aircraft entering this zone that are potential air threats.”

Japan is not the only country that has shown concern. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have both said the U.S. is “deeply concerned” over China’s unilateral action.

“We remain steadfast in our commitments to our allies and partners. The United States reaffirms its long-standing policy that Article V of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Defense Treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands,” Kerry and Hagel said in a statement, referring to the Japan-U.S. security treaty, which obliges the U.S. to defend Japan if Japan comes under attack from a third country. Previously, the U.S. has said the treaty covers the Senkakus.

In response to remarks by Kerry and Hagel, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Monday in a statement: “The Chinese government’s establishment of the air defense identification zone in the East China Sea is in line with the U.N. Charter and other international laws and practices.

“It is not directed against any specific country or target, nor will it affect the freedom of overflight in the related airspace,” he said.

“It is Japan’s erroneous actions that have led to the current situation of the Diaoyu Islands. The U.S. should keep its word of not taking sides on the issue concerning the sovereignty of the Diaoyu islands and stop making improper comments,” he said, referring to China’s name for the Senkakus.

The South Korean Defense Ministry reportedly noted that in some areas, China’s new ADIZ overlaps South Korean airspace.