clear
Thursday February 11th, 2016 8:22PM

China sends warplanes into air defense zone

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor
BEIJING - China said it sent warplanes into its newly declared maritime air defense zone Thursday, days after the U.S., South Korea and Japan all sent flights through the airspace in defiance of rules Beijing says it has imposed in the East China Sea.

China's air force sent several fighter jets and an early warning aircraft on normal air patrols in the zone, the Xinhua agency reported, citing air force spokesman Shen Jinke.

The report did not specify exactly when the flights were sent or whether they had encountered foreign aircraft. The United States, Japan and South Korea have said they have sent flights through the zone without encountering any Chinese response since Beijing announced the creation of the zone last week.

Shen described Thursday's flights as "a defensive measure and in line with international common practices." He said China's air force would remain on high alert and will take measures to protect the country's airspace.

While China's surprise announcement last week to create the zone initially raised some tensions in the region, analysts say Beijing's motive is not to trigger an aerial confrontation but is a more long-term strategy to solidify claims to disputed territory by simply marking the area as its own.

China's lack of efforts to stop the foreign flights - including two U.S. B-52s that flew through the zone on Tuesday - has been an embarrassment for Beijing. Even some Chinese state media outlets suggested Thursday that Beijing may have mishandled the episodes.

"Beijing needs to reform its information release mechanism to win the psychological battles waged by Washington and Tokyo," the Global Times, a nationalist tabloid published by the Communist Party's flagship People's Daily, said in an editorial.

Without prior notice, Beijing began demanding Saturday that passing aircraft identify themselves and accept Chinese instructions or face consequences in an East China Sea zone that overlaps a similar air defense identification zone overseen by Japan since 1969 and initially part of one set up by the U.S. military.

But when tested just days later by U.S. B-52 flights - with Washington saying it made no effort to comply with China's rules, and would not do so in the future - Beijing merely noted, belatedly, that it had seen the flights and taken no further action.

South Korea's military said Thursday its planes flew through the zone this week without informing China and with no apparent interference. Japan also said its planes have been continuing to fly through it after the Chinese announcement, while the Philippines, locked in an increasingly bitter dispute with Beijing over South China Sea islands, said it also was rejecting China's declaration.

Analysts question China's technical ability to enforce the zone due to a shortage of early warning radar aircraft and in-flight refueling capability. However, many believe that China has a long-term plan to win recognition for the zone with a gradual ratcheting-up of warnings and possibly also eventual enforcement action.

"With regard to activity within the zone, nothing will happen - for a while," said June Teufel Dreyer, a China expert at the University of Miami. "Then the zone will become gradually enforced more strictly. The Japanese will continue to protest, but not much more, to challenge it."

That may wear down Japan and effectively change the status quo, she said.

The zone is seen primarily as China's latest bid to bolster its claim over a string of uninhabited Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea - known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Beijing has been ratcheting up its sovereignty claims since Tokyo's privatization of the islands last year.

But the most immediate spark for the zone likely was Japan's threat last month to shoot down drones that China says it will send to the islands for mapping expeditions, said Dennis Blasko, an Asia analyst at think tank CNA's China Security Affairs Group and a former Army attache in Beijing.

The zone comes an awkward time. Although Beijing's ties with Tokyo are at rock bottom, it was building good will and mutual trust with Washington following a pair of successful meetings between President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping. However, the zone feud now threatens to overshadow both the visit by Vice President Joe Biden to Beijing next week and one by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop expected before the end of the year.

China's defense and foreign ministries offered no additional clarification Thursday as to why Beijing failed to respond to the U.S. Air Force flights. Alliance partners the U.S. and Japan together have hundreds of military aircraft in the immediate vicinity.

China on Saturday issued a list of requirements for all foreign aircraft passing through the area, regardless of whether they were headed into Chinese airspace, and said its armed forces would adopt "defensive emergency measures" against aircraft that don't comply.

Beijing said the notifications are needed to help maintain air safety in the zone. However, the fact that China said it had identified and monitored the two U.S. bombers during their Tuesday flight seems to discredit that justification for the zone, said Rory Medcalf, director of the international security program at Australia's Lowy Institute

"This suggests the zone is principally a political move," Medcalf said. "It signals a kind of creeping extension of authority."

Along with concerns about confrontations or accidents involving Chinese fighters and foreign aircraft, the zone's establishment fuels fears of further aggressive moves to assert China's territorial claims - especially in the hotly disputed South China Sea, which Beijing says belongs entirely to it.

Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun confirmed those concerns on Saturday by saying China would establish additional air defense identification zones "at an appropriate time."

For now, however, China's regional strategy is focused mostly on Japan and the island dispute, according to government-backed Chinese scholars.

China will continue piling the pressure on Tokyo until it reverses the decision to nationalize the islands, concedes they are in dispute, and opens up negotiations with Beijing, said Shen Dingli, a regional security expert and director of the Center for American Studies at Shanghai's Fudan University.

"China has no choice but to take counter measures," Shen said. "If Japan continues to reject admitting the disputes, it's most likely that China will take further measures."
© Copyright 2016 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 2 years ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 2 years ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 2 years ago )
U.S. News
More than 45 prison guards and officers in Georgia have been indicted on charges of accepting bribes and drug trafficking
ATLANTA (AP) — Dozens of Georgia prison guards agreed to protect drug smuggling operations for a high-level trafficker, believing their status as correctional officers would protect them from a vehicl...
4:59PM ( 3 hours ago )
Officials investigate suspicious fire, third in less than a week in Barrow County
While investigators believe it was internationally set, they don't believe a fire in a vacant mobile home Wednesday night is related to two suspicious weekend fires.
2:30PM ( 5 hours ago )
Firefighters battle residential fire in South Hall
​While early reports indicated someone was still inside, a search of a residence on fire in South Hall County found no one Thursday afternoon, fire officials said.
1:51PM ( 6 hours ago )
House OKs protection for clergy refusing gay marriage
The Georgia House has approved a bill explicitly stating that religious officials don't have to perform same-sex marriages that violate their faith.
By Associated Press
1:50PM ( 6 hours ago )
Gainesville seeking to sell three lots in golf club area
​The City of Gainesville is taking bids on three residential lots in the Chattahoochee Golf Club area it has listed for sale with the Abernathy Cochran Group at the Norton Agency.
10:50AM ( 9 hours ago )