Beijing says it has ensured stability with air defence zone

Beijing’s controversial air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea has ensured safety and security, the Defence Ministry said yesterday, dismissing criticism that it had exacerbated regional tension.

Analysts said that despite occasional showdowns, there had not been any major conflict between China and Japan since Beijing unilaterally announced the zone a year ago. But a flare-up could still occur if Beijing decided to apply its rules for the zone more forcefully, possibly step by step over time, one analyst said.

Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng told a monthly press briefing that China had strengthened its surveillance of foreign aircraft over the East China Sea since the zone’s establishment.
“Over the past year, we have maintained airborne safety and stability over the East China Sea, and safeguarded order in the area,” he said.
But Geng sidestepped questions on whether Beijing would announce a similar zone for the South China Sea, which is at the centre of other long-running disputes between Beijing and its Southeast Asian neighbours.

“We are confident about the overall stability of the South China Sea and our relationship with neighbouring countries,” Geng said.
Beijing announced the East China Sea zone on November 23 last year and required aircraft flying through the area to give notification of their nationality and flight plans.

The area covers most of the East China Sea including air space over the Diaoyu Islands, the focal point of a long-running sovereignty row between Beijing and Tokyo. Japan controls the islands, which it calls the Senkakus.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at the time of the zone’s establishment that the move “was a profoundly dangerous act”. South Korea also expressed dismay over the zone, which overlaps South Korea’s own air defence area.

Zhang Baohui , a security specialist at Lingnan University, said the repercussions from the zone’s declaration were less serious than expected, even though both nations had sent more aircraft and vessels to the region. “We haven’t seen any large-scale incidents or collisions, and it seems that the zone has had no serious impact on other nations,” Zhang said.

Mathieu Duchatel, head of the China and Global Security Project at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said Beijing had not fully enforced the rules of the zone, such as the notification requirement, but it might apply the rules more forcefully in the future.
“I think that, step by step, there will be more enforcement in the future,” Duchatel said. “In the short term, both sides are serious about crisis management and this will help keep tensions at a low level.”


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