China’s Senkakus Air Space Grab Requires American Response

COMMENTARY | China has established what it calls an “air defense zone” over the Japanese claimed Senkakus islands in the East China Sea that it as well as Taiwan also claims, according to AFP, increasing tensions in the region.

American Secretary of State Chuck Hagel was pronounced himself “concerned” reports Politico.

The establishment of the zone has some practical implications.

“Along with the creation of the zone in the East China Sea, the defence ministry released a set of aircraft identification rules that must be followed by all planes entering the area, under penalty of intervention by the military.

“Aircraft are expected to provide their flight plan, clearly mark their nationality, and maintain two-way radio communication allowing them to ‘respond in a timely and accurate manner to the identification inquiries’ from Chinese authorities.”

In other words, China reserves the right to intercept and perhaps shoot down any aircraft flying in the disputed area. This is the latest in a number of moves, including incursions of Chinese Coast Guard vessels, designed to unilaterally assert control over the islands, thought to sit on rich offshore oil deposits.

It should be noted that wars have been fought over less. While Hagel has stated that the Chinese announcement will not affect American military operations in the area, the United States needs to do more to make sure that the Chinese grab of air space does not go unchallenged. It should start flying combat air patrols, along with the Japanese, over the disputed area without complying with Chinese demands.

Secretary of State John Kerry quite rightly stated, “Freedom of overflight and other internationally lawful uses of sea and airspace are essential to prosperity, stability, and security in the Pacific.” However it is time that the United States put some teeth into that principle and make sure that China does not succeed in violating it. Otherwise such pronouncements are meaningless.

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