Following China’s highly controversial unilateral demarcation of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) covering airspace over the East China Sea, and just as countries affected by the move were voicing their protests loud and clear, Taiwan’s Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) struck an entirely different note by saying that Taiwan would submit flight plans to China in line with international practice laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
The minister is confused, to say the least. All the statements made by various nations about China’s air defense identification zone have without exception been made by their ministers of defense or foreign affairs, which shows that this is by no means purely a civil aviation issue.
The kinds of zone that the ICAO regulates are flight information regions (FIR), whose purpose is to provide flight information services that help ensure air traffic safety. It is extraordinary that Yeh, as Taiwan’s top official in charge of civil aviation, does not know the difference between an air defense identification zone and a flight information region.
To make matters worse, members of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) national security team said that they would handle the issue of China’s air defense identification zone entirely in accordance with international regulations and accepted practice. However, these zones have no basis in international law and there is no international mechanism for overseeing them. It follows that there are no prevailing international regulations governing air defense identification zones, let alone accepted practice.
Air defense identification zones originate from the time when East and West were at loggerheads, and especially following the Soviet Union’s deployment of intercontinental ballistic missiles. It was under such circumstances that the US demarked air defense identification zones around North America.
However, these zones were only concerned with aircraft heading toward the US. In practice they did not apply to aircraft that crossed an air defense identification zone but flew parallel to, rather than toward, US territory. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, the purpose of these air defense zones has changed and they are now mostly to do with preventing terrorism and stopping drug smugglers.
China claims that it has set up its air defense identification zone over the East China Sea in exercise of its right to self defense. In reality, however, the move is a follow-up to its submission of a map of its claimed coastal baselines to the UN last year, and is similarly intended to strengthen its claim of sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台). It is also meant to establish a basis for challenging Japan’s aerial patrols in the airspace over the Diaoyutai Islands.
China’s move effectively extends the dispute about sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands from the Earth’s surface up into the sky above. Considering that Taiwan is one of the claimants in the Diaoyutai Islands dispute, how can we indirectly support China’s standpoint?
China’s declaration of the air defense identification zone highlights its gangster mentality, as it tries to use institutional means to change the “status quo” in the East China Sea region. Taiwan should learn a lesson from the affair and handle it with the utmost caution.
As to those in charge of the issue in Taiwan, they have clearly been incapable of grasping the core issues involved in this dispute. In view of that failure, how can they be expected to safeguard the nation’s sovereignty and dignity?
Chen Rong-jye is a law professor and a former secretary-general of the Straits Exchange Foundation.
Translated by Julian Clegg
For the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), China’s “century of humiliation” is the gift that keeps on giving. Beijing returns again and again to the theme of Western imperialism, oppression and exploitation to keep stoking the embers of grievance and resentment against the West, and especially the US. However, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that in 1949 announced it had “stood up” soon made clear what that would mean for Chinese and the world — and it was not an agenda that would engender pride among ordinary Chinese, or peace of mind in the international community. At home, Mao Zedong (毛澤東) launched
The restructuring of supply chains, particularly in the semiconductor industry, was an essential part of discussions last week between Taiwan and a US delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach. It took precedent over the highly anticipated subject of bilateral trade partnerships, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) founder Morris Chang’s (張忠謀) appearance on Friday at a dinner hosted by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for Krach was a subtle indicator of this. Chang was in photographs posted by Tsai on Facebook after the dinner, but no details about their discussions were disclosed. With
Astride an ascended economy and military, with global influence nearing biblical proportions, Xi Jinping (習近平) — general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), chairman of the Central Military Commission and president of the People’s Republic of China — is faithfully heralded, in deeds and imagery, as a benevolent lord, determined to “build a community of common destiny for all mankind.” Rather than leading humanity to this Shangri-La through inspirational virtue a la Mahatma Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln, the CCP prefers a micromanagement doctrine of socialism with Chinese characteristics as the guiding light. A doctrine of Marxist orthodoxy transplanted under a canvas
On Sept. 8, at the high-profile Ketagalan security forum, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) urged countries to deal with the China challenge. She said: “It is time for like-minded countries, and democratic friends in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, to discuss a framework to generate sustained and concerted efforts to maintain a strategic order that deters unilateral aggressive actions.” The “Taiwan model” to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic provides an alternative to China’s authoritarian way of handling it. Taiwan’s response to the health crisis has made it evident that countries across the world have much to learn from Taiwan’s best practices and if