Air Defense Identification Zone

How to Roast Peaking Duck

Sam Noumoff

The Air Defense Identification Zone recently announced by the People's Republic of China has generated a temperature rise by some degrees in the struggle between the "pivot to Asia" by the United States and the "peaceful rise" of China. The grinding recalibration of this is clearly the slow realignment of power relations between these two contenders for the future.

1.    Flight plan identification. Aircraft flying in the Zone should report the flight plans to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China or the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
2.   Radio identification. Aircraft flying in the must maintain the two-way radio communications, and respond in a timely and accurate manner to the identification inquiries from the administrative organ of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone or the unit authorized by the organ. [I would note that this may be a redundancy as Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) is the wireless non-contact use of radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data, for the purposes of automatically identifying and tracking tags attached to objects.]
3.   Transponder identification. Aircraft flying in the Zone, if equipped with the secondary radar transponder, should keep the transponder working throughout the entire course.
4.   Logo identification. Aircraft flying in the must clearly mark their nationalities and the logo of their registration identification in accordance with related international treaties.

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.

The Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China is the administrative organ of the Zone and is responsible for the explanation of these rules.

Other zones commented in the US and Japan include :
US Air Defense Identification Zones around North America. If radio interrogation failed to identify an aircraft in the ADIZ, the Air Force launched interceptor aircraft to identify the intruder visually. The air defense system reached its peak in 1962, however with the deployment of the SS-6 ICBM in the USSR, strategic threats shifted overwhelmingly to ICBM attacks, and bomber intrusions were considered to be less of a threat. It does apply to aircraft passing through the zone to other countries.

Japan has an ADIZ that overlaps most of its Exclusive Economic Zone. Its eastern border was set up after World War II by the US military at 123° degrees east. This resulted in only the eastern half of Yonaguni Island being part of Japan's ADIZ and the western half being part of Taiwan's ADIZ. Thus on June 25, 2010 Japan extended its ADIZ around this island 22 km westwards. As this led to an overlapping with ROC's ADIZ and the government of Republic of Korea.

In response for this announcement the US, Japan and the Republic of Korea all scrambled fighters and B-52 bombers,explicitly ignoring these rules. The Chinese response has been to engage in"corresponding action in accordance with the situation and the level of threat". Given what has transpired to date, Japan is portrayed as target number one, although it was noted that there was no target country. Parenthetically the Indian press has emphasized that India is not included in the zone. Much comment has been made suggesting that the Chinese backed off after the initial announcement, overextended their position, and have struggled not to lose "face". They have countered by announcing that they fully monitored the US-Japanese-South Korean flights and determined they were not threatening and therefore did not take military action. Japan deployed at least 20 fighter aircrafts, while the US is considering daily probes into the zone, while China has deployed two fighters to shadow the assortment of intruders. Are they then at a standoff, or are there deeper agendas at work? Some easement has displayed by the US administration, when announcing that civilian aircraft should abide by China's regulations, "The US government generally expects that US carriers operating internationally will operate consistent with" notice requirements "issued by foreign countries" while military aircraft will remain unaffected. China has already announced that it had no intention to interfere with normal (civilian) flights. The issue remains only military flights.

One possible explanation for the Chinese action is to regenerate a new nationalist wave in the face of consolidating the new leadership team of President Xi Jinping, although there is no current evidence that such a wave will be organized or encouraged by the Party center. The blogosphere may be something else.

A second potential explanation focuses on the overlapping jurisdictional claims between China and Japan over sovereignty claims over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islets, to whittle away Japan's claim via military pressure. I have no evidence that the administration of Prime Minister Abe is likely to respond, other than an even harder nationalist line. Reciprocal air sorties and naval patrols could certainly spark a military engagement, however, this does not relate to the Air Defense ID proposition. The claims predate this stalemate for decades, if not longer.

I am suggesting an alternative explanation requiring some background of recent history. The US and China, as pointed out by others, have had four relatively recent crises : 1—Taiwan straits in 1995/96 when US aircraft carrier battle groups inserted themselves into the Straits following China's military deployment on the mainland coast; 2—The 1999 US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia claiming that the Embassy was used by communications and control by the Yugoslavs; 3—The 2001 collision between a US propeller driven EP-3 US reconnaissance spy plane and a Chinese naval F-8 jet fighter; 4—The 2013 crisis over the Air Defense Identification Zone.

At the outset let us note that ten countries currently claim their respective Air Defense Identification Zones—Canada, India, Pakistan, Norway, United Kingdom, The People's Republic of China, The Republic of Korea, Taiwan, The United States, and Japan which initiated its Zone in 1969.

The first of the crises was a rather hollow claim by the US that an approaching typhoon required shelter in the Straits (a Chinese friend verified the weather report which was reported as clear), while the second crisis was claimed by the US as a mistake of old maps. Both of them were patently in violation of China's sovereignty.

The most significant of the incidents for purpose of discussing the zone was the air collision in April 2001. The details would be apparent. US Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld reported that the Chinese Air Force had intercepted forty-four US spy flights, six of them within thirty feet and two within ten feet of US aircraft,between December 2000 to April 2001. The day of the April incident the Chinese F-8 flew three to five feet of the EP-3, sufficiently to permit the pilot to salute. Two subsequent narratives followed : The Chinese claimed that the EP-3 banked sharply, hit one of the F-8s which then crashed, while the second pilot alleges the EP-3's nose and left wing "bumped into the first jet, and the propeller on the EP-3's left wing smashed the jet's vertical tail into pieces." While the US claimed that the J-811 came close to the EP-3, sheared part of its propeller resulting in the crash and death of the pilot. The crippled EP-3 landed at Lingshui airfield in Hainan Province, and held the crew of twenty-four for 11 days which were then released with the EP-3 broken into pieces and returned to the US by a Russian super transport plane. In a report to the US Congressional Research Service to Congress the US insisted that US spy flights were essential to insure that, if not, the US "could degrade the US ability to conduct airbornesurveillance of PLA forces".

It has taken a dozen years for the Chinese to push back the frontier of US espionage surveillance of the coast and reassert its sovereignty and all its consequences. Yes, there is overlapping jurisdiction, yes there are competitive territorial claims, but also definitively yes the Peking duck plays a bettergame than the turkey.

There is a somewhat stale joke during the cold war, when Nicolai-Caucescu at a disarmament conference in Helsinki was asked by his driver at a fork in the road : "Comrade President which way do I go" the driver was instructed to "signal to the right, but turn to the left". A lesson on diplomacy.

Vol. 46, No. 28, Jan 19 - 25, 2014

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