US Flies Bombers Through China's Defense Zone as Tensions Escalate in Asia
said a Pentagon spokesman. There has been no response yet from Beijing.]The effects of China’s declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea are still reverberating around Asia and beyond. Aviation authorities, including an official from the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau, said civilian airliners will be forced to cooperate with the Chinese authorities when flying through the ADIZ (see map above).The Japanese and US governments unilaterally rejected China’s move and vowed to maintain the status quo: Japan administers islands within the ADIZ and the US promised to continue surveillance and military flights in the region and to protect its ally Japan. China blasted the US over Washington’s response, saying the Obama administration should cease “inappropriate remarks.”The dispute is far from over. Today, Beijing dispatched its one and only aircraft carrier for military drills in the South China Sea in another attempt to emphasize Chinese sovereignty in the region. Japan demanded that China back down. “The measures by the Chinese side have no validity whatsoever on Japan, and we demand China revoke any measures that could infringe upon the freedom of flight in international airspace,” Abe said during a parliamentary session, as the Guardian reports. “It can invite an unexpected occurrence and it is a very dangerous thing as well.” China’s defense ministry called Abe’s remarks “absolutely groundless and unacceptable.”This is significant escalation. Japanese and Chinese aircraft frequently come into contact with each other in this airspace, and it seems like Japan is constantly reminding Beijing that the “disputed” territory is actually administered by the Japanese government. There is a high risk that an aerial accident could lead to an international incident.Just such an incident occurred between the United States and China in George W. Bush’s first term. On April Fools Day in 2001, an American intelligence aircraft collided with a Chinese fighter jet near Hainan Island, off China’s southern coast. The American plane was able to make an emergency landing in Chinese territory but the Chinese plane crashed into the sea and the pilot died. China held the American crew hostage for several days before the US “expressed regret” in a letter delivered by the ambassador. Ultimately the Hainan Island incident, as it came to be called, caused no lasting diplomatic damage in the US-China relationship, and the US still flies reconnaissance missions near Hainan.But if a crash occurred today between Chinese and Japanese aircraft, it’s harder to imagine officials in Beijing and Tokyo calmly discussing what to do afterwards—especially if there were fatalities.