China ups ante with air defense zone

AFP-JIJI

Several governments joined Japan last week 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 Defense 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 defense zone has sharply escalated tensions in the region.

The rules Beijing announced Nov. 23 mean China has effectively demanded control over the airspace above a swath of the East China Sea crisscrossed by vital transport lanes.

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,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters.

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 U.S. 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, 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 to make a correction,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.