China yesterday declared an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea amid a territorial dispute with Japan, warning its armed forces will take defensive emergency measures if aircraft fail to comply.
A map, details of the zone’s coordinates and rules governing the area were posted on the Chinese Ministry of Defense’s Web site yesterday, along with a question-and-answer statement from Yang Yujun (楊宇軍), a ministry spokesman.
Japan’s Foreign Ministry lodged a complaint with China over the zone, Kyodo News said.
The move risks heightening tensions between Asia’s two biggest economies which are in dispute over the ownership of islets known as the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in Taiwan and Senkakus in Japan.
The islands lie inside the zone and Taiwan, China and Japan claim sovereignty over the surrounding waters, which are reportedly rich in oil, natural gas and fish.
“This is a necessary measure taken by China in exercising its self-defense right,” Yang said, according to the English-language statement.
“It is not directed against any specific country or target. It does not affect the freedom of over-flight in the related airspace,” Yang added.
Japan strongly objects to China setting up the zone and including the islands in the area, Kyodo News reported, citing the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
The No. 2 at the Japanese embassy in Beijing and the Japanese defense attache made protests to China’s foreign ministry and defense ministry, an embassy official, who asked not to be identified in line with policy, said in a telephone interview.
They told Chinese officials that the action was dangerous, could escalate the situation surrounding the islands and invite an unpredictable situation, he said.
The regulations governing the zone were effective as of 10am Beijing time yesterday, according to the defense ministry, which did not specify what measures might be taken against aircraft that do not cooperate with identification requirements or follow its instructions.
The rules include reporting flight plans to China’s Foreign Ministry or civil aviation authorities, and providing radio and logo identification of aircraft, the Chinese defense ministry said.
The Chinese air force conducted its first patrol inside the zone yesterday, comprising two reconnaissance plans with fighter jets and early-warning aircraft in support, the ministry said in a separate statement.
The announcement of the zone follows a decision by Chinese Communist Party leaders last week to form a state committee to better coordinate security issues as the country expands its military reach and faces growing dissent at home.
Many countries, including Japan and the US, enforce ADIZs, airspace where the identification, location and control of aircraft are required in the interest of national security.
More than 20 countries, including some of China’s neighbors, have stipulated such zones since the 1950s, Yang said, adding that the Chinese government’s action is in line with international laws and customs.
The easternmost point of the East China Sea zone is so close to China that combat aircraft can soon reach China’s territorial airspace from the point, Yang said.
Therefore it is necessary for China to identify any aircraft from this point to assess its intentions and examine its identity so as to allow enough early-warning time for responsive measures in maintaining air security.
Normal flights by international airlines in the zone will not be affected in any way, Yang said.
China successfully conducted a test flight of its first stealth combat drone, the Beijing Times reported on Friday, citing an unidentified witness to the flight.
Since the Japanese government in September last year bought three of the disputed islands from a private owner, patrol boats from the two countries have tailed one another through the area and the row has damaged trade and tourism ties.
Last month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would not permit China to use force to resolve territorial spats and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces said fighter jets were sent out after Chinese aircraft flew between its southern islands without entering Japanese airspace.