Sat, Dec 07, 2013 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Government must act on ADIZ: expert

Amid strong reactions from the US, Japan and South Korea over China’s unilateral demarcation of an East China Sea air defense identification zone (ADIZ) that includes the disputed Diaoyutai Islands, Joanne Chang, former deputy secretary-general of the National Security Council and a research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of European and American Studies, warned in a recent interview with ‘Liberty Times’ (sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’) reporter Tzou Jiing-wen that to avoid losing allies, the government must refrain from adopting a ‘none-of-my-business’ bystander attitude toward the matter

For example, China’s countermeasure against Japan’s refusal to acknowledge the Diaoyutai Islands’ disputed status is to dispatch coast guard vessels to sail straight into the territorial waters of the archipelago for what it said were “routine patrol operations.” According to Japanese government statistics, since September last year, Chinese vessels have been spotted 71 times within the 12 nautical mile zone off the islands and 294 times in its surrounding waters. China has also deployed surveillance aircraft to the island chain in an apparent attempt to assert sovereignty.

Now with the declaration of its ADIZ, China is likely to follow the same strategic pattern as Japan and start calculating the number of times the disputed archipelago is “intruded” on by foreign aircraft and vessels from Japan, the US and other nations. It may use the information to buy itself more bargaining chips at the negotiation table.

Moreover, the US, Japan and South Korea’s joint refusal to submit flight plans to China before entering its ADIZ will only give Chinese fighter jets justification for ignoring the air-defense zones declared by other nations.

Nevertheless, China will still pay a price for its “surprise move,” which left a lasting [negative] impression on the US.

Although Washington is unlikely to back down in its determination to protect the freedom of navigation [in the East China Sea], it should sit down with Tokyo, Seoul and Taipei to seek ways to maintain peace and stability in the region. They should discuss the issue of overlapping ADIZs, strike a consensus on whether to distinguish between civilian and military aircraft, and lay down coordination rules for aircraft operating in the region to prevent avoidable damage and casualties.

The US is also expected to better implement its policy of “rebalance” towards Asia and further reinforce the US-Japan-South Korea trilateral relationship.

LT: Please analyze the potential repercussions for Taiwan from China’s ADIZ declaration, and tell us what you think the nation should do in a situation like this.

Chang: We must not handle the situation as if it only concerns the US, Japan and Korea, because aside from the Diaoyutai Islands, China also claims sovereignty over Taiwan and the South China Sea, and it is reportedly planning to set up other ADIZs after completing relevant preparations.

So far, four aircraft carriers dispatched by the US, China and Japan have sailed through the politically sensitive waters of the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. The risk of a [military] conflict in the region has greatly heightened as the nations’ struggle for air and sea control over the area intensifies.

Taiwan’s stance on the territorial disputes have long been the focus of international attention. If we handle the situation properly, we could open up new opportunities for ourselves. But if we choose to adopt a “none-of-my-business” attitude, our allies may turn their backs on us when we are browbeaten by China.

Former US National Security Council senior director for East Asian affairs Jeffrey Bader said [in his book Obama and China’s Rise: An Insider’s Account of America’s Asia Strategy] that the growing disparity between the militaries on the two sides [of the Taiwan Strait] meant it was increasingly unrealistic to think the US could provide Taiwan with weapons sufficient for its defense.

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