Home Contact Us  
   

Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4218, 17 December 2013
 

Special Commentary

China and Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ): An Airmanís Perspective
Gp Capt (Retd) PI Muralidharan
 

The People’s Republic of China’s Ministry of National Defence announced on 23 November 2013 the creation of a new Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea. This, incidentally, includes air space over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands claimed jointly by China, Taiwan and Japan, as well as that over the Ieodo /Suyan Reef claimed both by PRC and South Korea. The Senkaku Islands are located around 400 km from Okinawa and about 200 km from Hainan Island which houses the Chinese PLAN Pacific Fleet.

Understandably, the Chinese declaration has drawn strong protests from affected countries such as Japan and ROK, and other concerned nations such as the US, Australia and Taiwan. On 25 November 2013, two USAF B-52s from Guam flew through the newly declared ADIZ in challenge, but apparently drew no reaction from the Chinese. The Japanese have been exercising ‘administrative control’ over the Senkaku Islands for decades, officially nationalising them in September 2012, when it was bought from its Japanese owners by the government. Traditionally, sovereign control of any land territory is tantamount to control of its air space and maritime boundaries and not the other way around. It is conceivable during a war situation that air power could be employed to enforce an ADIZ in the manner the Chinese seek to enforce during relatively peaceful climes. Also, the Chinese declaration of an ADIZ does not per se enhance China’s legal claim over these islands. Another moot point is whether the Chinese could enforce this ADIZ deep in the East China Sea (at air distances of around 200 km, somewhat like India’s ‘Bombay High’ from Mumbai). The aerial assets/ radars, communication networks, manpower etc required to provide air defence over these kinds of distances from the mainland would be mind-boggling. Therefore, the declaration thus far remains essentially ‘political’. 

On 24 November 2013, China flew a TU-154 and another Y-8 aircraft on patrol over the Senkaku, eliciting an Air Defence reaction from two Japanese F-15s who intercepted them. The Chinese have also claimed that they scrambled fighters in response to two US and ten Japanese aircraft recently. The potential for miscalculation and a resultant ‘air incident’ is therefore rife. Meanwhile the Koreans have sought to get the Chinese to realign their ADIZ to avoid overlapping with their own areas, which the Chinese have declined to do. As it stands, the US and Australia have refused to recognise the ADIZ for their military traffic, and the Japanese and the South Koreans have also decided to flout its norms. Although declaration of ADIZs is the sovereign right of nations, the international norm is that countries do not unilaterally declare them and that too overlapping those of other nations, and over disputed territories/air spaces.

Why this ADIZ?
Whilst claiming that the move was not directed against any specific country or threat, China clearly seeks to strengthen its claims over the disputed island territories in the East/South China Seas, following its September 2012 submission to the UN for baselines to demarcate maritime boundaries around disputed island territories. It is also possible that China is reacting to recent Japanese threats to shoot down Chinese UAVs considered to be encroaching upon their air space. By crafting an ADIZ encompassing the Senkaku Islands, the Chinese perhaps believe that they have established a basis for acting against Japanese aircraft operating over the islands. Also, this could be the precursor for more such ADIZs to be set up over other contentious areas such as the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea and other islands in the Yellow Sea. Also, the Chinese would like to collate data on the numbers of Japanese ‘intrusions’ into its ADIZ, indeed, akin to the data the Japanese have traditionally been publishing on Chinese and Russian air intrusions.

International Law on ADIZs
The Chinese declaration requires aircraft entering the ADIZ to report flight information to Chinese authorities; failure to comply would prompt ‘defensive emergency measures to be adopted by their armed forces’. Clearly provocative, these measures could lead to miscalculations, or worse still, aerial clashes or mid air collisions, like what happened with the American P3A over the Hainan Islands in 2001, which has the potential to trigger wider conflict. Lessons from air incidents between the Turkish and Greek Air Forces over disputed island territories in the Aegean Sea area also cannot be forgotten.

An ADIZ is defined as airspace over land or water in which identification, location and control of all aircraft is required in the interests of national air defence. This means that civil aircraft transiting through this zone are required to file a flight plan with the controlling agency, in this case, the PLA Air Force or PLAN Air Force, as the case may be. Based on principles of self- defence and precaution, since 1950, some 50 nations including the US, UK, Canada, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, India and Pakistan have adopted ADIZ measures in their national air defence architecture. ADIZs do not thus stand for national or territorial boundaries and they do not justify interference in another nation’s aerial navigation rights, especially over international waters and during times other than war. The legal validity of ADIZs has never been challenged worldwide and they cannot be banned under existing international norms. This also means that traditional over flight permissions to military aircraft through these Zones need to be ensured.

China’s ADIZ in the East China Sea imposes requirements on civil and military aircraft - such as filing of a flight plan and declaring operating radio frequencies - whereas normal ADIZs apply only to civil aircraft. In fact, ADIZ procedures in the US do not apply to any foreign air carrier not bound for US territorial air space. Should China now go ahead with its future plans to establish an ADIZ over the South China Sea, it would be seen as a destabilising move, violating the spirit of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC-SCS). Japan had unilaterally extended its ADIZ in May 2013 to reach 130 km from mainland China. The new Chinese ADIZ, interestingly, approaches the same distance i.e. 130 km from the Japan-claimed Senkaku Islands.

Can China Pull It Off Militarily?
Considering the technical difficulties in establishing an effective ADIZ (at a distance significantly far removed from mainland and coastal environs), the Chinese are clearly playing for the political mileage that could be extracted from the declaration. Any effective air defence umbrella over an area so far away from the Chinese mainland (around 200 km) would require an asset base that the Chinese presently are woefully short of, namely seaborne air defence radars, several numbers of AWACS/AEW aircraft, aerial refueling aircraft to augment the ranges of interceptors, AWACS platforms, and effective, secure communications, modern identification - friend or foe (IFF) systems throughout the air defence order of battle. Only a country such as the US has the wherewithal to undertake such an air defence mission in remote sea territory, given its nine carrier battle groups and a preponderance of AWACS/ AEW and other radar assets.

One could well imagine the magnitude of the challenge by envisaging a hypothetical task for the Indian Armed Forces of setting up an air defence umbrella over, say, the A&N Islands located some 1300 km from India‘s Eastern sea board. At least one aircraft carrier (may be more than one to have one on station!); adequate AWACS support and enough numbers of long range Air Defence Interceptors would be called for to undertake such a task. China is not there yet in terms of Air Defence capability, especially over the sea. Therefore, the whole exercise appears to be one to score political points. China would not like to provoke US air forces over this matter. It would be content to fish in troubled waters between Japan and South Korea to see how their governments react. It is interesting that whilst the US, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea have negated the Chinese ADIZ norms partly or wholly, international air carriers such as Singapore Airlines have decided to toe the line and intimate the Chinese on their flights transiting the ECS ADIZ.

Whither the Dragon in the Sky?
Japan, South Korea and the US have flown their military aircraft through the Chinese ADIZ. Taiwan and South Korea have asked their civil airliners to file flight plans with the Chinese. Some renowned international airlines such as SAL are already complying with Chinese norms. But it needs to be remembered that the US is a big player in this region, what with its military relationship with Japan and close air force cooperation with the South Koreans (they take part in the Red Flag series of air exercises frequently). Clearly, the ADIZ declaration has the blessings of the Chinese upper echelons, but if given the choice, nobody would like to precipitate a crisis in the region, as the number of countries involved in the South China Sea/Spratly disputes could lead to an unforeseen escalation. So far, the ASEAN has not reacted formally to the ADIZ development, but the general feeling amongst analysts is that the Dragon is playing chicken - something akin to a person wishing to build a fence around a plot of land in a city that he does not belong to!  

Given the large overlap in the ADIZs of Japan and China, frequent interceptions by either side are a given. Besides, China’s Aircraft Identification Rules make no distinction between aircraft transiting through its ADIZ flying parallel to its coast line and those aircraft flying towards its airspace. Though the US chastised China for this anomaly during Secretary Kerry’s recent ‘demarche visit’, it has quietly directed its civil air carriers to honour the Chinese ADIZ stipulations. These signals could possibly tempt the Chinese military and leadership to miscalculate that any precipitate kinetic action by their forces against Japanese aircraft in disputed airspace would not attract any US reaction. But such a miscalculation may indeed serve to be the trigger for escalation, should some overzealous local commander be trigger-happy.  Likewise, the possibility of a maritime or aerial conflict exists between South Korea and China over the Jeju Islands housing the ROK-controlled submerged Ieodo Rock. Given these threat scenarios, the US is bound to be working towards some kind of a ‘save face’ for China so that yet another military strategic hot spot is diffused.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
 
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Indo-Pacific
Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Indus-tan
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within


OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


 
Related Articles
Shamshad A Khan,
"Japanís New National Security Strategy: India Factor," 2 January 2014
Vice Admiral (retd) Vijay Shankar,
"China and Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ): At Variance with the Principle of Adherence," 26 December 2013
Teshu Singh,
"China and Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ): Political Objectives and International Responses," 26 December 2013
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra,
"China and Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ): Cold Confrontation with the US?," 10 December 2013
Angana Guha Roy,
"China and Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ): Assertive Unilateralism?," 10 December 2013
Rukmani Gupta,
"China and East China Sea: Air Defence Zone and Brinkmanship," 26 November 2013

Browse by Publications

Commentaries 
Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 
China 
Myanmar 
Afghanistan 
Iran 
Pakistan 
India 
J&K  

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Indo-Pak 
Military 
Terrorism 
Naxalite Violence 
Nuclear 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Indian Air Force: Is it an Expeditionary Force?

ADD TO:
Blink
Del.icio.us
Digg
Furl
Google
Simpy
Spurl
Y! MyWeb
Facebook
 
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2017
 January  February  March  April  May  June
 2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010  2009
 2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002  2001
 2000  1999  1998  1997
 
 

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

 
Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2017, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.