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He Said Xi Said
Dangerous Brinkmanship in China's Air Defense Zone

Ships belonging to the various players in Asia’s game of thrones have been menacing, tailing, and ramming one another in the seas around China (video here). Now, things have taken an even more dangerous turn: China and Japan have started to do the same with aircraft. Japan Times summarizes the incident from the Japanese side:

According to the Defense Ministry, one of the two Chinese jets came as close as 30 meters to a YS-11EB electronic intelligence aircraft from the Air Self-Defense Force, and within 45 meters of an OP-3C surveillance plane from the Maritime Self-Defense Force between 11 a.m. and noon Wednesday.

Japanese officials said the SDF turboprops were engaging in a “normal vigilance and surveillance” mission that it was legal under international law.

Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki summoned the Chinese Ambassador Cheng Yonghua to the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo to lodge a formal protest, but his request for an apology was rebuffed. China’s Xinhua:

Cheng made the remarks when he met with Japanese vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki the day and refuted protest lodged by the Japanese side over what it called “plane encounter” incident.

Cheng said that Japan’s YS11EB and OP3C aircraft tailed after China’s Tu-154 plane as close as 30 meters over the East China Sea at around 10 a.m. Wednesday and the Japanese fighters’ action seriously threatened the safety of China’s plane.

In an effort to prevent further contingency, two Chinese fighters, following orders, flew to the incident airspace and conducted surveillance on the two Japanese planes with a distance of 150 and 200 meters respectively, Cheng said.

As Bill Bishop noted, there is no hotline set up between Chinese and Japanese leaders to keep incidents like these from spiraling out into an uncontrolled conflict. This is a very dangerous situation, and it couldn’t be happening at a more inopportune time, with the Middle East at full boil and Ukraine seemingly hanging by a thread.

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  • PKCasimir

    Typical State Department mentality – a hot line will solve the problem!

    • Thirdsyphon

      Of course, the original Hot Line actually did solve the problem it was directed at. There was no Second Cuban Missile Crisis or anything similar.

      • Corlyss

        Actually, no. It’s been the space-based EWS that has saved us from nuclear war since the Cuban Missile crisis.

        One Soviet officer in particular prevented nuclear war by pausing for clarification and not reporting up the chain something that looked very like a US missile launch.

        • Thirdsyphon

          Those are some hair-raising links, Corlyss. Maybe we all just got lucky, and there was no solution to the problem.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Perhaps we did get lucky (I tend to agree that we did), but certainly there is no evidence at all that the Hot Line helped that luck along. It was useful in the aftermath of a crisis (the October War was a great example), but effectively useless in preventing or controlling the crises in the first place.

          • Corlyss

            We did get lucky, 3rd. Like the generals always say, rather be lucky than good. I’m inclined the US is blessed with wise leaders, and when Dems are in the WH, we’re lucky. That 1983 incident was as close to a real Wargames event as I hope we ever get.

  • Pete

    This is indeed a dangerous situation. The U.S. must step in between China and Japan before someone gets hurt.

    At the same time we must save Iraq from fragmenting, end the Syrian civil war, bring Afghanistan into the 21st century, continue to protect Western Europe and add in Eastern Europe too, stop Iran from going nuclear, and cut our green house gas emissions by some ungodly percentage.

    Perhaps the messes in Africa can be ignore for now because, after all, Uncle Sam can’t do everything, now can he?

    And what about the shrinking American middle class? Well, it should feel proud that U.S. elites have deemed the middle class worthy of 1) being taxed white and 2) providing the cannon fodder in the form of its children to pay for the elite’s vision of America’s role in the world.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    This is what happens when a weak US President, leaves a power vacuum, Authoritarians try to take advantage of the opportunity.

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