Mon, Dec 09, 2013 - Page 8 News List

China sees air defense zone as a ‘no-fly zone’

By Su Tzu-yun 蘇紫雲

A road hog, which in Taiwan signifies a person who paints their own parking space or uses flowerpots to block off public space for use as private parking, is disliked because they require others to ask their permission to park, “or else.”

Still, this is precisely the kind of childish game that China is playing in establishing its East China Sea air defense identification zone (ADIZ). In response to China’s announcement of the zone, the US sent two old B-52 bombers into the zone, knowing that Chinese radar would clearly detect them. What an embarrassment for Beijing.

In all fairness, to defend its airspace, expand the depth of its defenses and increase response time, it is understandable that China would want to establish the new ADIZ. The problem is that China seems to consider the zone a “no-fly zone,” requiring all aircraft to submit their flight plans when passing through the zone — regardless of whether they will enter China’s airspace or not. Since Beijing now requires all aircraft flying through this area to report their movements, this development has sparked protests from other countries.

By comparison, other countries such as Taiwan, Japan and the US merely use radar to monitor friendly aircraft passing through their corresponding zones and regions. It is only if the route of an unidentified aircraft is irregular that they establish contact with the aircraft through radio, G-waves or by interception.

In other words, an air defense identification zone is just an alert area and very different in nature from a no-fly zone. With a no-fly zone, no aircraft is allowed to enter without prior permission. If the zone lies outside a country’s air territory, international recognition of the zone is required.

The airspace over the East China Sea is considered a crucial passage in Northeast Asia, with hundreds of flights from 83 airlines passing through every day.

Most countries and airlines have ignored China’s requirement that they submit their flight plans. Countries such as the US, Japan, South Korea and Australia have also lodged protests against the zone. This means that the effectiveness of implementation and credibility of the zone are likely to be reduced, placing Beijing in a dilemma.

To put it simply, an air defense identification zone is like a “smile sign” at a mall telling customers that they are on camera. Customers should certainly behave themselves since they are under surveillance, but it is not necessary for them to also report their shopping lists to the mall to gain entry.

We all know that Taiwan is in a difficult situation. However, the government may have delivered the wrong message when it immediately agreed that the flight plans of Taiwanese aircraft should be submitted to Beijing. The areas surrounding Taiwan are not only popular commercial, but also military, air routes, and the air force often monitors and intercepts military aircraft. For example, a Russian Tu-95 bomber flew through Taiwan’s flight information region for 27 minutes on Jan. 28, 2010, but Taiwan simply monitored it on the radar and “reminded” it to leave by radio.

If China treats its air defense identification zone as a no-fly zone, it could become a tool for Beijing to block Taiwan in wartime. The military is already under massive pressure in the face of a possible Chinese sea blockade. If the government submits flight plans to China, thus recognizing Beijing’s authority over the airspace, it will endorse the legitimacy of a Chinese air blockade in wartime.

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