Tuesday, November 26, 2013

• US sends B-52 over China-claimed waters

US sends B-52 over China-claimed waters
by Kirk Spitzer - Tuesday, November 26, 2013

China has claimed a stretch of ocean and Japan and the USA will challenge that when a U.S. carrier battle group and Japanese warships arrive on Wednesday.

:mrgreen: China claiming nearly 1 million square miles of East China Sea
:mrgreen: Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe confronts China
:mrgreen: U.S. treaty obligates Pentagon to defend Japan

NAHA, OKINAWA, Japan — An American carrier battle group and a flotilla of Japanese warships will arrive Wednesday near a vast stretch of ocean claimed by China in what is shaping up as a test of how Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the USA will stand up to the challenge.
The joint U.S.-Japan exercises in the sea are a direct challenge to China's claim.

On Tuesday, the U.S. military said two Air Force B-52 bombers flew over the sea without notifying Beijing despite China's demand that it be told if anyone plans to fly military aircraft over its self-claimed "air defense zone. The aircraft took off from Guam on Monday, part of a regular exercise, said a U.S. defense official who spoke to AFP news service on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to divilge the information. China has been laying claim to nearly 1 million square miles of ocean known as the East China Sea, insisting that the sea's energy resources and fisheries belong to China. Much of the ocean territory it claims is hundreds of miles from its shore, including waters off the coasts of Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

On Saturday China went further than ever, announcing it had designated much of the sea as an air-defense zone it controls. The zone includes the Japanese Senkaku Islands, a string of uninhabited islets. The Chinese Defense Ministry said the zone was created to "guard against potential air threats." "China has been pushing and testing Abe since he took office and for the most part he has been passing," said Brad Glosserman, executive director of the Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Honolulu.

"This is a very dumb, very risky move by China," he said. "If the People's Liberation Army tries to interfere (with the US-Japan exercise), there will be real problems." The challenge represents a test for Abe, a conservative party prime minister elected in 2012 who has vowed to shift Japan's deferential military posture to a more muscular stance that recognizes its right to defend itself. On Tuesday, Abe directly confronted China, stating he would not recognize the Chinese air zone over the East China Sea or any of its claims to the Senkakus. "We will take steps against any attempt to change the status quo by use of force as we are determined to defend the country's sea and airspace," Abe said.

For the U.S.' part, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Chinese action represents a "destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo" and "will not in any way change how the United States conducts military operations in the region." To that end, the U.S. Navy arrived in force Tuesday off the coast of Japan for a complex exercise in which Japanese naval ships and U.S. fighter jets, warships and submarines will practice scenarios for a possible attack on Japan.
Sailing into the waters southeast of Okinawa on Tuesday to prepare for a long-planned exercise was the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam, guided-missile destroyers USS Curtis Wilbur, USS Lassen, USS McCampbell, USS Mustin, maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft and a Navy submarine.

China issued a protest with Japan and the U.S. government over the exercises and opposition to China's self-claimed right to an air-defense zone over the sea.
Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said Japan's complaint about the zone is "absolutely groundless and unacceptable," according to Japan's Kyodo news service. Yang said Japan has "no right to make irresponsible remarks" on the sea's airspace, portions of which have been jointly administered by Japan and the United States for decades. Yujun also urged the United States to "not take sides." Earlier this year, Japan scrambled fighter jets when Chinese planes flew near the Senkaku islands, a rich fishing ground annexed by Japan in 1895 and purchased by the legislature in 2012.

Chinese interceptor aircraft conducted the first flights into the zone after it went into force at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The Chinese moves have inflamed Japan and worried other nations that say they may now need to inform China when their commercial flights are heading over the East China Sea. It also has U.S. allies concerned that China is becoming more aggressive against them since the installation a year ago of Xi Jinping as leader of the Communist regime.
But Hagel reaffirmed the U.S. military commitment to the 1952 U.S.-Japan Mutual Defense Treaty that commits Washington to intervene in defense of Japan if there is an attack on Japanese-administered territory. And Abe has backed up his belief that Japan must modify its stance held since World War II that Japan's defense can be outsourced entirely to the United States.

Abe has been pressing for Japan to raise its readiness and play a bigger role in global security since he came to power in December 2012 and won a majority for his Liberal Democratic Party in the upper house of the Japan legislature in July. Defense spending in Japan has seen its largest increase in 22 years, says Kyodo.
The spending has zeroed in on boosting Japan's capabilities to defend against amphibious assaults. But Abe has yet to garner the votes to change Japan's constitution so its defense forces can project the full military powers of a sovereign state.

The constitution, written by the U.S. military after the defeat of Japan in WWII, restrains what Japan can do militarily. The U.S. military retains bases in Japan, primarily in Okinawa, and exercises between the two militaries have grown in size and complexity in recent years. Although precise locations have not been announced for the latest exercise, specific training events — which will include land-based patrol planes and other aircraft — are supposed to take place across large stretches of Japanese and international airspace, including parts of the East China Sea. China's Ministry of National Defense announced that any foreign aircraft entering its newly drafted "East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone" must file a flight plan with Chinese authorities, stay in two-way radio contact and follow other instructions.

Failure to do so will result in "defensive emergency measures" by China's armed forces, according to the statement. It is not clear why China chose to announce the new air restrictions now, said Narushige Michishita, Director of the Security and International Studies Program at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo.

Whether Xi Jinping approved of it or the military demanded it is unknown, Michishita said.
"It is a scary scenario," Michishita said.
"What happens next is up to China."

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U.S. affirms support for Japan in island dispute with China
by MARK FELSENTHAL AND DAVID ALEXANDER - Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The United States pledged support for ally Japan on Wednesday in a growing dispute with China over islands in the East China Sea as senior U.S. administration officials said China's claim to air space over the islands had unsettled its neighbors.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told his Japanese counterpart in a phone call that the two nations' defense treaty covers the small island group where China established a new airspace defense zone last week and "commended the Japanese government for exercising appropriate restraint," a Pentagon spokesman said.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is due to visit China, Japan and South Korea during a week-long trip and will seek to ease tensions heightened after China demanded that airplanes flying near the islands identify themselves to Chinese authorities, senior U.S. administration officials said. China's declaration raised the stakes in a territorial standoff between Beijing and Tokyo over the Senkaku islands. The United States defied China's demand on Tuesday by flying two unarmed B-52 bombers over the islands without informing Beijing. Flights of Japan's main airline similarly ignored Chinese authorities while flying through that air space.

China's defense ministry said it had monitored the U.S. bombers. A Pentagon spokesman said the planes had not be observed or contacted by Chinese aircraft.
Some experts say the Chinese move was aimed at eroding Tokyo's claim to administrative control over the area, including the tiny Senkaku islands.
Washington does not take a position on the sovereignty of the islands but recognizes that Tokyo has administrative control over them and the United States is therefore bound to defend Japan in the event of an armed conflict. Biden will seek to ease the growing tensions in the region during his trip next week, U.S. officials said.

"The visit to China creates an opportunity for the vice president to discuss directly with policy makers in Beijing this issue to convey our concerns directly and to seek clarity regarding Chinese intentions," a senior administration official told reporters. "It also allows the vice president to make the broader point that there's an emerging pattern of behavior that is unsettling to China's own neighbors," the official said. The official said it raised questions about "how China operates in international space and how China deals with areas of disagreement with its neighbors."

Biden will not be making a demand on a specific issue but rather will raise the topic as part of talks spanning a range of themes, the official added. The Pentagon signaled that more military flights into the defense zone claimed by China can be expected. Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told Reuters: "We'll continue to conduct operations in the region, as we have" in the past. He declined to offer details on timing. Japan Airlines and ANA Holdings said they had stopped giving flight plans and other information to Chinese authorities following a request from the Japanese government. Both said they had not experienced any problems when passing through the zone. Japan's aviation industry association said it had concluded there was no threat to passenger safety by ignoring the Chinese demands, JAL said.

China overplayed its hand on the Senkaku islands
by David Pilling - Wednesday, November 27, 2013

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About a year ago, I was in the office of Albert del Rosario, the foreign minister of the Philippines.

What, I asked, would Manila say if Shinzo Abe, then running for prime minister of Japan, carried out his pledge to amend the pacifist constitution and “rearm”? (In fact, Japan is already fully armed, but its constitution bars use of force except in self-defence.) I fully expected him to reply that this would be a regrettable move. Not only would it be enormously provocative to China but memories of the country’s invasion of the Philippines were surely just as raw in Manila as they were in Beijing and Seoul. Not a bit of it, he said.

“We would welcome that very much. We are looking for balancing factors in the region and Japan could be a significant balancing factor.” Those remarks, echoed by Indonesia’s foreign minister, came back to me this week as China and Japan squared off dangerously over Japan's Senkaku islands in the East China Sea. At the weekend, Beijing took many by surprise when it announced the creation of an “air defence identification zone” covering the Senkaku islands.
There is nothing unusual about establishing such a zone. Many countries have them, including Japan and the US. Yet the move is provocative because China’s zone overlaps Japan’s.

From now on, Beijing says, aircraft entering the zone will have to identify themselves to Chinese authorities or face unspecified “emergency defence measures”.
Mr Abe denounced the move, which he said had no legitimacy. Washington, too, has strongly objected. It sent two B52 bombers across the zone – without telling Beijing in advance – to underline its displeasure. Japan’s two main civilian airlines initially complied with the order but, under pressure from Tokyo, resumed flying across the zone on Wednesday without informing Chinese authorities. China’s aim appears to be to change the facts on the ground – or, in this case, in the air.

Its new zone challenges Japan’s longstanding de facto control of the islands, which it incorporated into its territory in 1895. In the short term, Beijing hopes to force Japan to admit that sovereignty over the islands is in dispute, something it refuses to acknowledge. In the longer run, China may seek to drive a wedge between Japan and the US. Although Washington takes no position on the islands’ sovereignty, it says they fall under the remit of the US-Japan security treaty. That implies it would come to Japan’s aid if the islands were attacked. Yet China cannot be the only country to wonder whether Washington would really risk American lives to defend a few barren rocks.

On the face of it, this is a good fight for Beijing to pick. One might advise it to do exactly the same as a way of ratcheting up pressure on Japan and advertising its regional ambitions. After all, one might argue, there is little love lost for Japan in the region. Washington is desperate for Seoul and Tokyo to get along. Instead, they are barely on speaking terms. Park Geun-hye, the president, has refused to meet Mr Abe until he has developed a “more sincere” attitude towards Japanese history. She instead made a high-profile visit to Beijing.

Yet other Asian countries, even ones that suffered at the hands of Japan’s Imperial Army, do not harbour the same bitterness. Many of the region’s nations, including the Philippines, Vietnam and India, have become increasingly wary of a rising China as it becomes more assertive about its territorial claims.
They have encouraged the US to “pivot” back to the region. And many of them have edged closer diplomatically to Japan, an important – in some cases, the most important – investor in their economies. In an unprecedented diplomatic charm offensive, Mr Abe has visited all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in his first year in office.

Japanese companies, backed by the government, have sharply stepped up their presence in Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar. The latter, until recently firmly in China’s orbit, has slipped out of its diplomatic grasp as it opens up to the west. The hedging against China is not just commercial. Many countries in the region, including the Philippines and Vietnam, are stepping up military co-operation with the US. Japan has supplied ships to Manila to patrol waters disputed with China, and is in discussion with Hanoi to do the same. Even South Korea has objected strongly to China’s new exclusion zone. China’s lack of soft power was on display in the days after Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the Philippines.

The US sent the USS George Washington, Japan sent 1,000 self-defence troops and plenty of money. China’s initial contribution, a mere $100,000, was widely condemned as petty and mean-spirited. One could argue that, as China’s economy grows, it is only natural that its regional footprint will also expand, not always to the liking of its neighbours. After all, as long ago as the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, the US declared Latin America off-limits to European powers.
Yet Beijing may be overplaying its hand. In Japan, China’s action may make it easier for Mr Abe to scrap a self-imposed ban on collective self-defence or even eventually to ditch the pacifist constitution. Whether regional leaders like his nationalistic sentiments or not, many of them will be hoping he does not blink.

Obama Sends B-52s, and a Message, to China
by James Gibney - Wednesday, November 27, 2013

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The U.S. decision to fly two B-52s through China's claimed "air defense identification zone" around a set of islands disputed between China and Japan was significant in several ways.

First, it was a blunt reminder that Northeast Asia remains the world's most combustible geopolitical hot spot. Second, it's a strong signal that the Barack Obama administration is going to stand by its Asia-Pacific allies against Chinese aggression. And third, for students of the region's recent history, it also brings back memories of another tit-for-tat episode: the March 1996 shadow confrontation between the U.S. and China over Taiwan. That incident and its aftermath suggest that, for both sides, a show of force produced mixed results.

If you want the long version of what happened in 1995-1996, read this piece by Robert S. Ross from International Security. My barstool version, though, goes something like this: The U.S. gives Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui a visa to visit the U.S., upsetting the Chinese, who keep an eagle eye on any possible deviations from the U.S. agreement to no longer grant Taiwan any kind of official recognition. And they're extra angry, because the U.S. had recently sold Taiwan 150 F-16s and seemed to be gradually upgrading its Taiwan policy. Lee, meanwhile, is doing what he can to stick his thumb in the PRC's eye.
And the Bill Clinton administration is caught between a Taiwan-loving Congress and the strategic and economic imperative of forging a stable relationship with China while not seeming weak to its allies in Northeast Asia.

All this culminates in a very nasty set of live-fire military exercises by China, including bracketing Taiwan with surface-to-surface missiles. Cue the dispatch of a U.S. carrier group to waters east of Taiwan, with another one in reserve in case trouble broke out. All sides didn't exactly kiss and make up after this, but they did bring things back to a dull roar. In one sense, the Chinese show of force backfired because it didn't weaken Lee politically, and instead merely made ordinary Taiwanese more resistant to unification. It also didn't do much for China's regional image. It did, however, prompt a distancing of U.S. policy toward Taiwan.

The Clinton administration defended the credibility of its commitment to its alliance partners, and to stability and security in Northeast Asia -- even if the U.S. enabling of Lee's behavior helped to provoke the crisis in the first place. The current situation is only somewhat analogous. Yet the U.S. still has to make clear it will stand by its allies, defend freedom of navigation, and support the security and stability that underpin regional prosperity. As old as they are, those B-52s in Guam can come in handy at such moments. Like it or not, Japan and China may lack the historical maturity to resolve this crisis on their own.
Now there's something that would be worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize, Mr. President.

Flight of the B-52s
by The Wall Street Journal - Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortess is being refueled by a KC-135 Stratotanker

Joint patrols of the Senkakus would send a stronger message
Full credit to the Obama Administration for showing solidarity with Japan as it seeks to defend itself against China's aggression over the Senkaku Islands.
On Tuesday a pair of B-52s flew unannounced—and unchallenged—through an "air defense identification zone" covering the islands that was unilaterally declared by Beijing late last week.

Maybe President Obama's pivot to Asia means something after all. The flight of bombers comes after more than a year of Beijing brinksmanship with Tokyo over the uninhabited Japanese islets, which is designed to change the status quo on the sea and in the air around them. In its response to the flight, the Chinese Foreign Ministry backed down somewhat, saying "we will in accordance with different situations take corresponding reactions." But the real test of the air defense zone will come in the next few days or weeks when the People's Liberation Army uses it to challenge Japanese forces as they patrol the Senkakus.
The U.S. can help to deter an armed clash by making more concrete its treaty obligation to assist Japan in defending the islands.

The best ways to do that are joint sea and air patrols with Japanese forces. If Beijing challenges those patrols, it would be taking on both countries at once—a security trip-wire similar to the stationing of U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula. This could lead to an eruption of Chinese anger, and the U.S. might pay a short-term price in economic and diplomatic retaliation. Washington could pre-empt that to some extent by cancelling next week's visit of Vice President Joe Biden to Beijing.

But allowing China's aggression to succeed means running a high risk of future conflict, accidental or intentional. It isn't clear why Chinese leaders are acting belligerently. One theory is that they feel their rising economic and military power entitles them to restore the tributary system by which their imperial predecessors dominated East Asia. Others think their lack of domestic political legitimacy makes them eager to stir up nationalist sentiment. Maybe it's some combination of the two.

In any case they miscalculated this week by assuming their intimidation would succeed.
As long as Beijing continues its bullying, the aim of U.S. policy should be to make sure that China's provocations are met with further demonstrations of solidarity and resolve.

China must rescind its air zone over disputed islands
by The Washington Post - Tuesday, November 26, 2013

OVER THE weekend, China abruptly raised the stakes in a long-simmering dispute over Japanese-controlled East China Sea islands in a manner that is worrisome and reckless.

China unilaterally announced the imposition of a new “air defense identification zone” over a broad swath of the sea, demanding that planes identify themselves to China and obey its orders or face potential military action. The zone overlaps a similar one maintained by Japan and is nothing less than an assertion of sovereignty. At issue are a string of uninhabited islands that are claimed by both countries.

Last year, Japan bought them from a private owner; China increased the frequency of patrol ships, and Japan responded with patrols of its own. The United States is neutral in the territorial dispute but committed to the defense of Japan, and it has repeatedly urged both Asian powers to negotiate. The shadow-boxing with sea patrols was already unsettling before the Chinese announcement of the new zone in the air Saturday. China is saying, in effect, that it now controls the zone’s air traffic and could intercept planes that don’t follow its rules.

The Chinese action creates a very real hazard of accident or error leading to open hostilities, which could draw in the United States through its commitment to Japan. Both Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel were right to immediately protest China’s action. Japan also called on China to step back. But Beijing has stood fast. Some years ago, its leaders reassured the world that a rising economic superpower did not mean a more muscular China, in the region or beyond it. They called it “China’s peaceful rise.” The weekend’s announcement looks to be anything but.

It is true that China’s territorial claim to the islands is long-standing. But to suddenly impose restrictions on air travel over such a wide territory is not a “peaceful rise” nor the sign of a willingness to negotiate. China claims another expansive territory in the South China Sea that has brought it in conflict with its neighbors there. If this air zone is allowed to stand, it may encourage China to step up the pressure in other ways, too. Recent months had brought signs of some cooperation and dialogue between the military forces of the United States and China.

This remains urgent and important. If China really feels the need for an air identification zone beyond its territorial waters, perhaps it should join with Japan and neighboring states to create a joint zone in which they share aviation data and agree to work out claims on the waters and islands below.
That may be an optimistic goal, but China must realize that unilaterally grabbing control of the skies is not a path to tranquillity.

U.S. Directly Challenges China's Air Defense Zone
by JULIAN E. BARNES in Washington and JEREMY PAGE in Beijing - Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pair of American B-52 Bombers Fly Over Disputed Island Chain

WASHINGTON—A pair of American B-52 bombers flew over a disputed island chain in the East China Sea without informing Beijing, U.S. officials said Tuesday, in a direct challenge to China and its establishment of an expanded air-defense zone. The planes flew out of Guam and entered the new Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) at about 7 p.m. Washington time Monday, according to a U.S. official. Over the weekend, Beijing said it was establishing an air-defense zone covering Japanese Senkaku islands.

U.S. defense officials earlier had promised that the U.S. would challenge the zone and wouldn't comply with Chinese requirements to file a flight plan, radio frequency or transponder information. The flight of the B-52s, based at Anderson Air Force Base in Guam, were part of a long-planned exercise called Coral Lightning. The bombers weren't armed and weren't accompanied by escort planes. But the routine flight took on new significance with China's weekend announcement, and it counters Beijing's attempts to strengthen its influence over the region. China had warned that aircraft that don't comply could be subject to a military response.

The establishment of the new zone was certain to have been approved by Xi Jinping, China's new leader, who became military chief at the same time as taking over as head of the Communist Party in November last year, analysts and diplomats said. They see the move as part of a long-term strategy to try to gradually change the status quo in the East China Sea, and make it increasingly costly for Japan to enforce its claims, without ever crossing the red lines that might provoke an actual military conflict. But some analysts now believe that China might have overplayed its hand by angering not just Japan and the U.S., but South Korea and Taiwan—both of which have air-defense zones that overlap China's—and several other countries that have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea. The U.S. official said that China didn't make contact with the B-52s as they flew over the islands.

The planes returned to Guam after the exercise. "The planes flew a pattern that included passing through the ADIZ," the official said. "The flight was without incident." Calls to China's foreign and defense ministries went unanswered. U.S. officials said they believe they had to challenge the ADIZ to make clear they don't consider the Chinese move to be appropriate. But they said they don't believe U.S. flights over the island will create a military conflict. The White House said the territorial dispute between China and Japan should be solved diplomatically.

"The policy announced by the Chinese over the weekend is unnecessarily inflammatory," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in California, where President Barack Obama was traveling. "These are the kinds of differences that should not be addressed with threats or inflammatory language," he said.
China is now requiring aircraft flying in the region to register their flight path with the Foreign Ministry, identify their transponder and their radio frequency.
Col. Steve Warren, the Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. wouldn't comply with those requirements. "The United States military will continue conducting flight operations in the region, including with our allies and partners," said Col. Warren on Monday, prior to the B-52 flight. "We will not in any way change how we conduct our operations as a result of the Chinese policy of establishing an ADIZ, an Air Defense Identification Zone."

Col. Warren said the U.S. didn't agree with China's decision to establish the zone, and the U.S. wouldn't comply with it while flying over the disputed islands.
"We see it as a destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo in the region," Col. Warren said. Qin Gang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, told a regular news briefing earlier in the day Tuesday that China's new zone wouldn't affect regular international civilian flights, according to a transcript on the Foreign Ministry web site. Asked if China would take military action against aircraft that didn't comply with its demands in the zone, Mr. Qin said: "It was written very clearly in the announcement. With regard to the question you've asked, the Chinese side will make an appropriate response according to the different circumstances and the threat level that it might face." China's Defense Ministry said Saturday that the Chinese military would take "defensive emergency measures" against aircraft that didn't obey the rules in the new zone.

It didn't specify what those measures would be. China's official Xinhua news agency announced earlier Tuesday that the country's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was making its maiden voyage to the South China Sea, where China is also embroiled in territorial disputes with its neighbors. The Liaoning left its homeport of Qingdao in eastern China on Tuesday and was being escorted by two destroyers and two frigates to the South China Sea where it would conduct training exercises, Xinhua said. A Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman said Saturday that China was planning to establish more ADIZs, and many analysts expect one of them to be over the South China Sea, where China's claims overlap with those of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei.

China had made some progress in easing tensions over the South China Sea in recent months with a charm offensive in Southeast Asia that was helped by President Obama's failure to attend a regional summit in Brunei in October because of the U.S. government shutdown. That was seen by many Asian governments as a sign of declining U.S. influence, despite its pledge to refocus military and other resources on the region as part of a so-called "pivot" toward Asia.

Beijing's progress was undermined in the eyes of many, however, when it initially announced a donation of just $100,000 to help victims of a devastating typhoon in the Philippines, while the U.S. sent an aircraft carrier to spearhead the relief effort.

Beijing plays a longer game with its air defence zone grab
by Jamil Anderlini in Beijing - Wednesday, November 27, 2013

2011 Japan-US joint military exercise

Next step will be to work on other countries to cajole or intimidate them into at least tacitly recognising China’s sovereignty over the disputed airspace.
The American B-52 bombers that flew over the East China Sea on Tuesday made something of a mockery of Beijing’s newly-declared “air defence identification zone”.

To the outside world China looks weak and ineffectual right now, as it obviously cannot match its blustery rhetoric with an actual defence of the uninhabited Japanese-administered islands it claims as its territory. But viewed from Beijing and the longer-term perspective of the country’s strategic planners, the establishment of the new zone is a masterstroke that will change the facts on the ground (or in this case the air) pretty quickly. For a start, the US cannot keep flying bombers over the region and say they are part of “long-planned exercises” (as they claimed this week’s flyovers were). Doing so would quickly lose impact as a statement of principle and evolve into needless provocation, especially in the eyes of the Chinese public, who draw most of their opinions on such matters from tightly controlled state media.

There are already signs that Beijing will portray its response to Japanese and American “incursions” as proof it is exercising maximum restraint in the face of outrageous incitement. Since Japan’s strongest claim to the Senkaku island group comes from the fact it has administered them for many decades, China is hoping to assert its own overlapping track record of “administration”. The next step in China’s game-plan will be to work on other countries in the region and around the world to cajole or intimidate them into at least tacitly recognising China’s sovereignty over the disputed airspace. When Chinese diplomats and politicians sit down for discussions with their counterparts from other countries, they usually have a very short list of things they want from the other side.
With the big shiny promise of Chinese markets looming behind them, they usually demand recognition that Taiwan and Tibet are part of China and they ask for general statements about open markets and anti-protectionism.

From now on they will start asking other countries to force their airlines to identify themselves to Chinese authorities when passing through the disputed airspace, thereby implicitly acknowledging that the territory belongs to China. The pressure will be much greater on individual airlines hoping to capitalise on the tens of millions of new Chinese tourists flooding out of the country every year. When they cave they can always justify their compliance on safety grounds.
That was the explanation from Japan’s two largest airlines, which immediately agreed this week to provide Beijing with co-ordinates for all flights entering the disputed airspace.

They changed their minds three days later under pressure from the Japanese government and now say they will not comply with the Chinese demand.
For evidence of how successful Beijing’s tactics are, just look at Taiwan, which lost diplomatic ties with the Gambia this month, leaving it with the Vatican, Burkina Faso, Sao Tome and Principe, Swaziland and less than 20 Latin American and Pacific states as its friends. In its territorial disputes with all of its neighbours, China’s big advantage is that it wants to change the status quo while its opponents are all trying to keep things pretty much as they are.
That means other countries in the region have to prepare for an infinite number of possible Chinese actions while Chinese strategists only have to design one clever manoeuvre at a time.

What we are witnessing is just the early stages of China’s abandonment of its long-held foreign policy of minding its own business as Chinese President Xi Jinping, one year into the job, turns his attention to the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” outside the country’s current borders. China’s leaders know that time and global trends are on their side as long as nothing goes disastrously wrong domestically and as long as they do not actually provoke a war with Japan, the US or any other country. That is where the danger lies.

As one senior Asian diplomat told the FT this week, China may think it has pulled off a clever tactical manoeuvre but clearly nobody in Beijing has properly studied European history before the first world war. As the world prepares to mark the centenary of the “war to end all wars”, China would be better off learning how that conflagration started rather than dreaming up clever ways to antagonise and scare its neighbours.

China Qualifies Air-Zone Threats After U.S. Challenge
by JEREMY PAGE - Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Beijing Qualifies Its Threats Over New Air-Defense Zone After Uncontested Flight of American B-52s

BEIJING—The U.S.'s flying of B-52 bombers uncontested through China's new air-defense zone is challenging Chinese efforts to assert its power, prompting Beijing to qualify a threat of action against any planes that didn't comply.

China's Defense Ministry said Wednesday it had monitored and identified the U.S. aircraft inside the zone over the East China Sea during the over-flights Tuesday, and the Foreign Ministry said that enforcement of the zone's rules would vary according to circumstances. "We will in accordance with different situations take corresponding reactions," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang. The muted response suggested to some analysts that China wouldn't attempt, in the short term, to repel U.S. and Japanese military planes entering the zone without obeying its rules. It stood in contrast to the announcement Saturday that Beijing had declared the Air Defense Identification Zone over an area that includes islands at the center of a territorial dispute between Beijing and Tokyo.

The Defense Ministry said the armed forces would take unspecified "defensive emergency measures" against aircraft that didn't identify themselves and obey instructions from Chinese authorities. By sending the B-52s into the zone—even at the farthest edge from China according to the Chinese military—the U.S. sent a clear message that Washington would stand by its ally Japan—including over threats to the disputed islands it controls but which Beijing contests.
"The U.S. military is flying where they've been flying before, flying as usual. There's been no change," Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters in Tokyo.
"The Chinese action is a unilateral one, and the U.S. shares this view," he said.

The U.S. military countered China's latest move to lay claim to disputed islands with the establishment of an air defense zone in the East China Sea by flying B-52 bombers over the area. Paul Burton, Asia-Pacific director at IHS, tells Deborah Kan why this move has escalated tensions in the region.

Though Beijing didn't interfere with the U.S. sortie, the prospect of Chinese intercepts of U.S. and Japanese air forces is raising the risks for all sides, by increasing the likelihood of a collision or a miscalculation that could quickly escalate into a broader military crisis. The rising tensions come just ahead of a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to China, Japan and South Korea next week. "The vice president will make clear the US has a rock solid commitment to our allies" in his conversation with China's leaders, said a senior administration official.

"The United States also believes the lowering of tension in this region is profoundly and deeply in the American interest." Mr. Biden is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. A second official said that Mr. Biden would also try to clarify China's intentions in setting up the air-defense zone and try to make the case that the action isn't in China's interests. Rather it has become part of "an emerging pattern of behavior that is unsettling" to China's neighbors. The official said talks among all the parties could help to "cool down tensions."

The U.S. moved to try to counter China's bid for influence over increasingly jittery Asian neighbors by sending a pair of B-52 bombers over disputed islands in the East China Sea. There has been a muted response from China, Jeremy Page reports.

Experts said Beijing is unlikely to back down and will scramble its jet fighters more often than in the past to escort U.S. and Japanese planes in the area, without trying to force them to land or leave. "If the U.S. continues to sends its aircraft without following the rules, we'll send our military planes to escort them, not to repel," said Shen Dingli, an expert on international relations and Chinese foreign and defense policy at Fudan University in Shanghai. "China does not under any circumstances have the right to expel any aircraft outside its own airspace," he said. "But we'll escort them to show there is a cost. If the U.S. sends one, we'll send two, and we have 1,000 waiting."

He and other analysts said China had probably not intercepted the B-52s to avoid a direct confrontation with a more powerful military force and to show its willingness to resolve difference over the zone in talks with U.S. officials. Beijing's announcement of the air-defense zone raised tensions with Japan and also unnerved several Southeast Asian nations locked in territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea. Beijing's image was already battered by its initially small offer of aid to one of those nations, the typhoon-damaged Philippines. Compounding the tensions, China on Tuesday sent its sole aircraft carrier to the South China Sea for training exercises under escort of four warships. "Its deployment does not contribute to collective efforts to strengthen regional stability and instead serves to threaten the status quo," said Raul Hernandez, a spokesman for the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs.

In Beijing's contest with Tokyo over the Japanese Senkaku islands, military experts have said China lacks the air power and sufficiently experienced pilots to mount a daily challenge to the better trained, technologically advanced U.S. and Japanese air forces. Accidents have strained relations before. A Chinese jet fighter collided with a U.S. Navy EP-3 surveillance plane off Hainan Island in southern China in 2001, and after the U.S. plane made an emergency landing on Hainan, Chinese authorities detained the aircraft and its crew until the U.S. apologized. Adding to the current risks, both China and Japan regard the airspace immediately surrounding the disputed islands as their national airspace and reserve the right to shoot down any unidentified aircraft that enters.
The standoff over the islands reflects the changing geopolitical dynamics of Asia, as China seeks to displace the U.S. as the dominant military power in the region, and Washington tries to shore up defense ties with allies concerned about China's rise.

The U.S. has taken China's announcement of the air-defense zone as an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to Asia and still unrivalled military capabilities after U.S. influence in the region has recently appeared to be on the wane. Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has made a point of taking a stand against China's recent assertiveness in the region, and has called repeatedly for broader interpretation of Japan's pacifist constitution that would allow it to help an ally under attack. Chinese President Xi, meanwhile, has cast himself as a charismatic strongman intent on reclaiming China's prominence in the world.
As part of that, he has taken a more confrontational approach to territorial disputes in the East China Sea and the South China Sea. The Chinese strategy, analysts said, is to challenge Japan's control of the islands without provoking an actual military conflict and to raise the costs to Washington to get it to push Tokyo to acknowledge the dispute and start negotiations.

China's move to announce the new air-defense zone "is a deliberate calculated act to break the present Sino-Japanese stalemate over the Senkaku Islands," said Carlyle A. Thayer, an expert on Asian maritime security at the Australian Defence Force Academy. "China's actions are carefully calibrated. They are designed to push the envelope of China's claims while appearing defensive." On the domestic front, a risk for Mr. Xi is that his rising personal power has raised expectations with a highly nationalistic domestic audience, leaving him vulnerable should China come out worse off in the dispute. In China's relatively open online forums, some Chinese citizens criticized the military's failure to stand up to the U.S. on the B-52s while others questioned the decision to establish the air-defense zone in the first place.

"The immediate reaction [from U.S.] with both words and action shows the adventurism in China's decision over the air-defense zone, and the passive and embarrassing consequence resulting from that," Pan Jiazhu, a well-known columnist on military issues who goes by the pen name Zhao Chu, wrote on his verified account on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblogging service. Internationally, meanwhile, China needs to show it has sufficient military muscle to enforce the zone while also reassuring neighbors, especially in Southeast Asia, where China is also involved in territorial disputes, that the zone doesn't threaten their interests. "It will be very important for China to establish [the zone's] credibility," said Wang Dong, a Northeast Asia security specialist at Peking University.
At the same time, "China needs to make a good case why it's defensive and limited and why it should not be seen as aggressive."