Southern air defence zone 'crucial for China in long term', PLA expert says

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 February, 2014, 4:51am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 February, 2014, 4:51am

Establishing a second air defence zone - this time over the South China Sea - was in China's long-term interest, a senior People's Liberation Army researcher said yesterday.

Senior colonel Li Jie , of the PLA Navy's Military Academy, said a senior US intelligence officer's remarks last week about China's intention to declare another air defence identification zone (ADIZ) were meant to deter China from making such a move.

Captain James Fanell, director of intelligence and information operations at the US Pacific Fleet, predicted China would set up such a zone over the South China Sea by the end of 2015.

China declared its first air defence zone late last year over the East China Sea, where it is locked in a territorial dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus by the Japanese.

China demands all aircraft entering its zone identify themselves or face countermeasures.

Washington is very concerned about the tension developing in the South China Sea
Senior colonel Li Jie

A Pentagon spokesman said Fanell's comments were his own views. The statement came as US Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno visited Beijing, where he met PLA Chief of the General Staff General Fang Fenghui .

Li said the Pentagon's distancing of itself from Fanell's remarks was tactical. "It's a typical US diplomatic strategy. Washington is very concerned about the tension developing in the South China Sea, which will relate to its strategic interests," he said. "The establishment of another ADIZ over the South China Sea is necessary for China's long-term national interest."

Li said it was too early to predict when the zone would be announced. International relations experts have said China does not intend to further upset its neighbours with another zone. But tensions in the South China Sea are not letting up. The Philippines' military chief, General Emmanuel Bautista, on Tuesday pledged his forces would defend fishermen against any Chinese "terror or intimidation".

Fanell said China was training its military to be able to carry out a "short, sharp" war with Japan to take the Diaoyu islands or even the Ryukyu islands - a chain stretching to Okinawa.

"We witnessed the massive amphibious and cross-military region exercise, Mission Action 2013, and concluded that the PLA has been given a new task: to be able to conduct a short, sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea," Fanell said.

Such a war could be expected to be followed by a seizure of the islands in dispute, he said.

Shanghai-based military expert Ni Lexiong said the drill was not an indication China had any plan to seize islands by force. "Both the PLA and Japan's Self-Defence Forces have come up with different island capture plans, which are just common exercises," he said.