HANOI – Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will express their concern in a joint statement that any abuse of power in international civil aviation could pose a security “threat,” a Japan-ASEAN diplomatic source said Thursday, in an implicit reference to China’s new air defense zone.
At a time tensions remain high after China set up last month the controversial air defense identification zone, a draft of the statement shows Japan and ASEAN are mulling underscoring the importance of “freedom of overflight” over the high seas, the source said.
The statement, designed to reaffirm the common positions of Japan and ASEAN in regional and global challenges, including maritime security, will be issued at a special Japan-ASEAN summit in Tokyo next week.
The draft statement, however, does not single out China but the wording clearly has Beijing in mind, according to the source.
Japan, which is one of the affected parties as the zone overlaps with those of Japan as well as South Korea, proposed to ASEAN last week to add the expression “freedom of overflight” in their draft document, in response to China’s new ADIZ, the source said.
China established the ADIZ on Nov. 23 over a wide sea area that encompasses the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, with rules demanding that all aircraft identify themselves and provide flight plans in advance to Chinese authorities, or risk being subjected to unspecified “emergency defensive measures.”
Tokyo, which has a long-standing row with Beijing over the sovereignty of the Senkakus, wants to rally support from leaders of the 10-member ASEAN and allies such as the United States in the wake of Beijing’s growing assertiveness both at sea and in the air, political analysts say.
China also appears keen to set up an ADIZ in the South China Sea, another area that is a source of maritime tensions due to overlapping territorial claims with ASEAN members, including Vietnam and the Philippines.
But with ASEAN countries generally reluctant to provoke China due to their close economic ties with the world’s second-largest economy, it is uncertain whether Japan can push through with the statement it has drafted in the way it wants.
The draft statement also says Japan and ASEAN will boost their cooperation bilaterally and globally such as through the International Civil Aviation Organization, according to the source.
The draft also underlines the need to promote “freedom of navigation” and to resolve disputes “by peaceful means” in line with international law.
Japan has also been increasingly concerned with China’s growing maritime presence.
Japan’s row with China over the Senkakus, which China claims and calls the Diaoyu, has intensified since Japan effectively nationalized the uninhabited islets via a purchase from a private Japanese owner. Since then, Chinese vessels have often entered territorial waters near the chain.
Apart from the joint statement, Japan and ASEAN will also issue a separate document that will map out the medium- and long-term vision of their ties at the special summit from Dec. 13 to 15 to mark their 40 years of friendly and cooperative ties.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.