Criticism of China’s ADIZ increases; Japanese airlines do a policy U-turn


Several governments joined Japan Tuesday in criticizing China’s latest bid to carve out a zone of control in the East China Sea, including Australia summoning Beijing’s ambassador to voice opposition over the move.

As administrations around the world began lining up against Beijing over its unilaterally declared Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ), dismissing it as invalid, Japan called on its airlines to refuse China’s demands that they obey new rules when entering the zone.

China’s declaration of an air defence zone has sharply escalated tensions in the region.

The rules Beijing announced at the weekend mean China has effectively demanded control over the airspace above a swathe of the East China Sea criss-crossed by vital transport lanes.

All Nippon Airways (ANA) initially said that since Sunday it has been submitting flight plans to Chinese authorities for any plane that was due to pass through the area, which includes islands at the centre of a bitter territorial row between Tokyo and Beijing.

Its affiliate Peach Aviation said it was doing the same “for now” and Japan Airlines said it was also complying with the rules.

But late Tuesday the Kyodo and Jiji news agencies reported that both All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines had reversed that decision, giving no further explanations.

The zone covers the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands, which Beijing claims as the Diaoyus, where ships and aircraft from the two countries already shadow each other in a dangerous game of cat and mouse.

Australia said Tuesday it had summoned the Chinese ambassador to convey its opinion that “the timing and the manner of China’s announcement are unhelpful in light of current regional tensions, and will not contribute to regional stability.”

“Australia has made clear its opposition to any coercive or unilateral actions to change the status quo in the East China Sea,” said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

In response, China’s foreign ministry said that “we hope Australia can understand correctly, and make joint efforts to maintain the security of flight in the relevant airspace.”

Germany’s government said the move “raised the risk of an armed incident between China and Japan.”

The United States earlier came out forcefully in Tokyo’s favor by affirming that the Senkakus fall under the U.S.-Japan security treaty.

“This announcement from the Chinese government was unnecessarily inflammatory,” White House deputy spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One.

On Tuesday Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe huddled with his foreign and defense ministers, with his spokesman decrying China’s attempt to alter the status quo in the region “forcibly and unilaterally.”

“In cooperation with the international community, we are strongly urging the Chinese side to make a correction,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

Transport Minister Akihiro Ota insisted that the Chinese declaration was “not valid at all” and called on Japanese airlines to ignore it.

But Japan’s main aviation companies had initially acquiesced.

“We have taken the measures in line with international regulations,” an ANA spokesman said. “Safety is our top priority. We have to avoid any possibility of the worst-case scenario.”

Peach Aviation said it had taken similar steps. “We will continue submitting our flight plans to the Chinese side for now,” a spokesman said.

On Monday Tokyo called in Beijing’s ambassador to demand a roll-back of the plan which it said would “interfere with freedom of flight over the high seas.” But it was rebuffed by Cheng Yonghua, who said Tokyo should retract its “unreasonable demand.”

Under the rules, aircraft are expected to provide their flight plan, clearly mark their nationality, and maintain two-way radio communication allowing them to “respond in a timely and accurate manner” to identification inquiries from Chinese authorities.

The area also includes waters claimed by Taiwan and South Korea, which have also both registered their displeasure at the move.

In Taipei an official of Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said Taiwan’s airlines will abide by the rules set out by China, with the CAA forwarding flight plans to Chinese aviation authorities.

But Korean Air and its South Korean rival Asiana Airlines said none of their planes flying through the zone were reporting in advance to China.

“There will be no changes in our operations until there is a new policy guideline from the transportation ministry,” a Korean Air statement said, in comments echoed by Asiana.

But the announcement of the ADIZ drew applause in China, where a poll by the state-run Global Times newspaper showed nearly 85 percent of respondents believe the zone would “safeguard (China’s) airspace security.”

  • Frederico J. Gordo

    Do you think China will declare war with rest of the world?

  • JimmyJM

    The most famous ADIZ disaster has to be the Russian shoot down of KA007. An innocent Korean Air passenger plane with civilians on board but not navigating properly was destroyed near the Russian occupied islands north of Hokkaido. ADIZ is dangerous at all times but when it is unilaterally declared on the spur of the moment, it can be particularly dangerous. This is brinkmanship at its utmost. I hope someone in Beijing comes to their senses soon.

  • render

    “Zones are set up according to a country’s domestic laws. Many countries have established ADIZs, including Japan and the United States. China had none until Saturday.” So in that light shouldn’t Japan’s ADIZ, coming a mere 130nm within Chinese terrority be viewed as equally provocative? Absurd. These are administration areas of air space set up for identification. The only thing that’s in dispute is the area above the Senkaku/Diaoyutai. To refuse to report your flight path as a commercial airliner because of that is to endanger groups of 430 civilians for the sake of ultra-national politics. Send your own sons and daughters to the front line first.

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    The Chinese have overplayed their hand here – I spy a humiliating climbdown…

    • Nimrod0

      Climbdown from what? More like a frantic chest thump by the Japanese and their American DoD backers who just got jarred out of their right-wing fantasies, all the while airlines around the world comply. Japanese airlines, if they want business and safety, will comply whatever they’d like to say now.

  • Michael Williams

    I love the fact the JimmyJM mentioned the Korean Air incident with Russia, which stemmed from a dispute over the Kuril Islands. I had to learn about that incident in Long Range Navigation in college. It should be recognized is that KA007 traversed into Russian territory at Sakhalin during a period of tensions that rivaled the Cuban Missile Crisis, and it was shot down because it was ‘spying’ on the USSR. The resulting salvage operation that was undertaken by the United States Navy was met by counter operations in international waters from the Soviet Union. Luckily no one made a miscalculation that could have led to war between two nations that possessed the power to wipe humanity off the face of the Earth.

    So here we are again, 30 years later, with another dispute, with the possibility of conflict between two nuclear armed nations. Except this time the entire circumstance is being designed by China with a purpose of forcing territory from another neighbor, just as they did to Tibet, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The Chinese government spouts ancient territorial claims of the Celestial Empire of previous dynasties that have long passed and their goals are beyond obvious, to spread their influence and to achieve hegemony.

    Render, this is not a simple argument that revolves around other countries have Air Defense Identification Zones, so China can too. Other countries are not using an ADIZ to establish a platform to legitimize the threat of their air and naval forces for the sole purpose to coerce and wrest territory from another sovereign nation.

    • Nimrod0

      Give me a break. Celestial Empire of previous dynasties? WTF. How about the Japanese surrender of WWII, when Japan signed international treaties returning colonial possessions to China, among which was Taiwan and to which these islets were always attached even during the times of Japanese administration. Only when Taiwan was about to be dropped from diplomatic recognition in favor of the PRC did Okinawa take on more significance, and did the US, the suzerain of both Japan and Taiwan at the time, place the islets under the administration of Okinawa. This happened in 1971, which is exactly when PRC and Taiwan both began protesting. Nothing would have happened except now Abe tries provocatively to nationalize the islets and declares there is no dispute at all.

      So who is wresting territory from another nation? Who is behaving in a hegemonic way? It’s not China, it’s Japan under delusional nationalists right now. Because — is Japan really planning to renege on the results of WWII, that which forms the entire basis of post-war peace in East Asia and the foundation of peaceful relationship between China and Japan? Is it going there? Really? Because that’s exactly what it looks like, especially when placed in the context of denying the Nanjing Massacre, denying comfort women, visiting war criminal shrines, and proposing changing textbooks and the Peace Constitution. China is responding in kind by setting up an ADIZ just as Japan did, and not a bit too soon. If this goes further, I fully expect WWII to resume and it won’t be pretty for all parties, least of all Japan. This stuff is no joke.