Air Defence Identification Zone

Air defence zone in East China Sea to remain 'forever', say Beijing advisers

Controversial defence zone announced at short notice was under consideration ‘for some time’ and will not be rescinded, say Beijing advisers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 November, 2013, 11:21pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 November, 2013, 10:41am

Beijing has been planning an air defence zone over the East China Sea for some time and it will stay there "forever", according to foreign policy advisers to the central government.

The sudden declaration of the protected air space close to territorial waters and islands also claimed by Japan triggered fierce protests from Tokyo and Washington.

China said aircraft would have to notify its aviation authorities if they want to enter the defence zone it established on Saturday. The aim is to protect the nation's territorial sovereignty.

"Emergency defensive measures'' could be taken against aircraft entering the area without permission, Xinhua reported.

Last night, Japan's two airlines, ANA Holdings and Japan Airlines, said they would heed a Japanese government request to stop filing flight plans demanded by China on routes through the new air defence zone.

Both airlines, which have been informing China's aviation authorities since Saturday of flights through the zone in the East China Sea, would stop doing so from today, spokesmen from the carriers said.

One Western diplomat said he feared an "unintended accident" could quickly escalate into a full-scale confrontation, particularly between China and Japan.

Shi Yinhong , an international relations professor at the Renmin University and an adviser to the State Council, admitted the risks had increased, but China's leaders were confident they could manage them.

He and another central government adviser said the idea of setting up the defence zone had been in the pipeline for some time. They said the current tension with Japan over the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands gave Beijing good reason to announce the creation of the zone.

"Given China's size and growing power, is it normal for it to have a very narrow strategic air space, given others already have their own air defence zone?" Shi asked. "Now it's established, it will stay forever."

Watch: The South China Sea dispute explained

Beijing did not consult Washington, Tokyo or Seoul beforehand because it would have further strained diplomatic ties, Shi said. "They would have all opposed it. If we then decided to go ahead, it would have been worse," he said.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has described the creation of the zone close to disputed waters without consultation as "dangerous".

Australia said yesterday it had summoned Beijing's ambassador to protest.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said: "The timing and the manner of China's announcement are unhelpful in light of current regional tensions, and will not contribute to regional stability."

In response, China's foreign ministry said that "we hope Australia can … make joint efforts to maintain the security of flights".

Germany said the move "raised the risk of an armed incident between China and Japan".

Shi said China was unlikely to create another air defence zone in an area such as the South China Sea. Another government adviser also supported his view.

"You have to have a reason [to do this]. The provocative stance of Abe's government provides us with the reason," said the adviser.

"There is no such opening in the South China Sea. Our ties with Vietnam are improving and there's no need [to go that far] to deal with the Philippines."

Shi said Beijing would be flexible in operating the zone. "The interpretation depends on the political reality. If a US or Taiwanese [military plane] enters the zone, we will be flexible," he said.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse and Reuters

Video: China air defence zone to 'protect sovereignty': govt spokes