Unless the US takes drastic action now, China will dramatically expand its control over Asian airspace a leading US academic predicted.
Taiwan and other small countries in the region will be forced to accede, said resident academic at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Michael Auslin.
In a paper published by the news magazine Politico, Auslin said that Nov. 24, 2013 — the day after China announced its new “air defense identification zone” — may go down in history as “the day America lost Asia.”
He said that because of the lack of an effective US response, China has successfully begun changing the rules of international security in East Asia.
“And with a whimper, not a bang, Washington may begin losing its influence in Asia despite its still-preponderant strength,” Auslin said.
The White House announced on Wednesday that US Vice President Joe Biden would convey US “concerns” to Beijing when he visits next week.
Biden who is also stopping in Japan and South Korea, will discuss “an emerging pattern of behavior by China that is unsettling to China’s own neighbors and raising questions about how China operates in international space and how China deals with areas of disagreement.”
These are obviously issues of prime importance to Taipei.
Auslin said that two US bombers flew through the new air defense identification zone on Tuesday without announcing themselves, but wondered if Washington will “tone down” the amount of US flying in the region in future “so as not to provoke a crisis.”
What are the rules of engagement for the first time a Chinese air force plane demands that a US military aircraft identify itself or turn back, Auslin asked.
“Will US forces back up Japanese air force planes that find themselves threatened?” he asked.
The danger, Auslin said, is that the tide of regional trends is headed in China’s favor.
Free aerial passage through international skies over one of the world’s busiest air corridors has effectively ended, Auslin said.
“This is just the beginning,” he said. “Already, the Chinese have said they will set up other air control zones once the East China Sea area is pacified.”
That, of course, means the South China Sea, where China is embroiled in island territorial disputes with a number of nations including Taiwan.
By this time next year, Auslin said, all of East Asia may be under a Chinese aerial protectorate in which all nations fly at the sufferance of Beijing or its regional military commands.
“Next, the waters of the Yellow Sea, along the Korean littoral, may be similarly covered, thus forcing the US to decide how it will do air operations off the peninsula,” he said.
“Beijing has gambled that the US is too distracted and too wary of conflict in Asia to oppose the new reality,” he said.
Auslin said the administration of US President Barack Obama should make daily shows of force, flying fighters, more bombers, cargo and reconnaissance planes ostentatiously through the skies that China now claims.
“It should invite all nations in Asia to join with the US Air Force and the US Navy in regular aerial transits simply for the right of it,” Auslin said.
If the White House shrinks from taking these steps, Auslin said, the Chinese will have won a victory that will change the perception of the balance of power in Asia.