China’s demarcation of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) that includes the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) has increased the risk of possible miscalculation and conflict, according to a UK-based analyst.
In an article published by the BBC, Alexander Neill, a senior fellow for Asia-Pacific security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the move demonstrates Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) resolve to defend what China sees as its territorial integrity.
“It’s the most striking act of military escalation since he became China’s top leader and top military chief one year ago,” Neill wrote.
The ADIZ declaration confirms that the Diaoyutais, called the Senkaku Islands by Japan and the Diaoyu Islands (釣魚群島) by China, are a “core concern” for China and places the archipelago in the same category as the South China Sea and Taiwan.
According to Neill, the reason Xi might be prepared to overlook the late former top leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) axiom “hide your strength, bide your time” is because China is now an economic powerhouse with an increasingly potent military.
“China’s best option to maintain escalation dominance in the absence of a permanent military presence in the Senkaku region is the establishment of the ADIZ,” Neill wrote.
Most significantly, the ADIZ is symbolic of China’s persistent anger at the regular surveillance and intelligence-gathering sorties conducted by the US military at sea and in the air along China’s borders, he continued. However, Neill added that the proximity of the US 7th Fleet — based in Japan — and the regular operations mounted by the US military in the ADIZ area mean that the Pentagon will be extremely resistant to complying with air demarcation protocols demanded on China’s terms, as will the Japanese military.
The US response might be to up the tempo of its own military drills planned for the area, forcing China into a defensive response that will test both Xi’s resolve and his chain of command, Neill’s analysis said.