China establishes 'air-defence zone' over East China Sea

bose

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China Is a toothless paper tiger?
Interesting.

Is China a toothless paper tiger? | canada.com
China lacks the guts to look through the eyes of its equals... This is a hard truth"¦but the same will always bully the smaller neighbors"¦ Look at their house within, people cannot speak out their mind what a shame feel pity with these Chinese people, I just saw a brief documentary on what the Chinese people think of this very incident... You will be surprise to know not a single people interviewed spoke for de escalation or moderation"¦ they fear they will taken to task to speaking against the state sponsored propaganda"¦
 

happy

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I expected better from you. Guess my mistake.

The US says it expects its civilian aircraft to observe China's rules in an air defence zone in the East China Sea.

A US statement said this did not mean the US accepted China's requirements in the zone covering territory claimed by China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

But on Friday, the state department said the US government "generally expects that US carriers operating internationally will operate consistent with Notams [Notices to Airmen] issued by foreign countries".

It added: "Our expectation of operations by US carriers consistent with NOTAMs does not indicate U.S. government acceptance of China's requirements for operating in the newly declared ADIZ."
China announced on Thursday it was deploying warplanes in the area for surveillance and defence.

Then on Friday, Air Force spokesman Col Shen Jinke said warplanes had been scrambled that morning to monitor two US surveillance aircraft and 10 Japanese planes - including early warning aircraft, surveillance aircraft and fighter jets - crossing through the ADIZ.

Col Shen said the jets had tracked the flights and identified the planes, state media reports.

BBC News - US carriers urged to comply with China air zone rules
It appears that, now AWACS, fighter jets and sigint aircraft are operating in the chinese zone. Poor china, can do nothing but track the aircraft flight path. Not even escorting them, as is done routinely for Russian and US planes.
 
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happy

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A valid view by one of the members on another online forum by name 'Canadian'

To the commenters who say that China should have the disputed islands due to historical presence, I would suggest that history is not necessarily the best way to settle disputes. Perhaps we should go back to the days of Genghis Khan and give all the land that he conquered to China! Maybe not a bad idea if China takes Iran off our hands! This has to be settled (or not settled) diplomatically and with logic. China is weakening its case by behaving like a bully.
Disputed islands in the East China Sea: What's at stake and who's involved | CTV News
 

wodoo1

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It is a good point. But China may do it later
>>Poor china, can do nothing but track the aircraft flight path. Not even escorting them, as is done routinely for Russian and US planes
 

happy

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Poor @wodoo1, no market for his blackmagic here ;)
 
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happy

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Not just about the islands

China's decision to have an Air Defence Identification Zone in the East China Sea could have more to do with bigger maritime security issues than with any dispute over islands administratively controlled by Japan

In late November, China announced that it now had an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea. This development led to an immediate spiking of tensions with its neighbours, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, as well as with the United States.

In response, the United States sent two B-52 bombers into the air zone claimed by China. A couple of days later, Japan and South Korea followed suit, sending aircraft into the zone without informing the Chinese authorities. While the U.S. has now at least advised its passenger airlines to follow the rules of the Chinese ADIZ, Tokyo has explicitly refused to do so. For those bemused by China's sudden announcement and the flurry of international attention that has accompanied it, here is a handy guide to the issue.

What is an ADIZ?

It's a section of international airspace over which a country declares its right to identify aircraft, ostensibly to protect itself from foreign threat. It's a product of customary international law but it's not jurisdictional.

What happens once an ADIZ is established?

A country would use radar to detect unexpected aircraft flying in the ADIZ and observe them. This would sort some, if not most, into the category of being unthreatening. Using radio, it would query those it was concerned about. The country may ask who they are and what they are doing. If they are not a security threat, that would be sufficient. If the country was still not sure, it would launch an aircraft to intercept and observe. The country would not have the authority to do anything else unless it thought the aircraft was a direct threat to the country.

What's the problem with China declaring an ADIZ?

Well, the problem is that China's ADIZ overlaps with the ADIZ that was created by the U.S. after World War-II and transferred to Japan in 1969. Japan sees this as an affront to its sovereignty. The bigger problem is that China's ADIZ encompasses the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands claimed by both China and Japan. This is the first time an overlapping ADIZ has been declared in an area where there is a sovereignty dispute. As a result, with China monitoring the space, and the U.S. and China's neighbours defying it, there is now an increased risk of either a deliberate or accidental incident involving military aircraft. Some are also concerned that China thinks the ADIZ will strengthen its claim over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands.

Is it Diaoyu or Senkaku? And what's the history issue that crops up in every article?

The Chinese call the islands Diaoyudao. The Japanese call them Senkaku. Impartial observers try to get both names in. The "history problem" (lishi wenti) as China terms it, refers to the history of Japanese colonialism in China. Japan, once a vassal state of imperial China, subjugated and humiliated the Chinese not once but twice in different periods of time — in the late 1800s, and again, in the 1930s. Japan's domination and exploitation of China, along with the conquests of Western powers, falls under the "century of humiliation" (bainian guochi) in the Chinese historical narrative.

The Diaoyudao islands were considered lost during this period when Japan formally annexed them in 1895. The suffering at the hands of Japan was particularly shocking for China and the issue remains hugely sensitive, not just because Japan was considered an inferior vassal state at the beginning of this tumultuous period, but also because modern Japan is seen as unremorseful of the atrocities it inflicted on China.

So why did China suddenly declare the ADIZ? Is it just about controlling Diaoyu/Senkaku?

That depends on whom you talk to. Chinese foreign policy decision-making is highly opaque, so all anyone can do is to speculate and there have been a number of speculative theories. First, China could be redefining the status quo. China feels it has a right to an ADIZ to protect its sovereignty over both its territory as well as its claimed maritime spaces. After all, Japan has an ADIZ.

Moreover, Japan's ADIZ comes within 130 km of China's territory; therefore it's only fair that China's ADIZ extends to within 130 km of Japan's territory. Second, it could be a direct challenge to Japan's administration of Diaoyu/Senkaku. Japan has administrative control over the islands; this could be China's attempt at a different kind of parallel control.

Third, this could be not about Diaoyu/Senkaku but rather about bigger maritime security issues in the East China Sea and asserting Chinese dominance. The New York Times quoted an unnamed adviser to President Obama saying, "It's pretty clear this isn't about the islands."

Fourth, it could be a combination of domestic political pressure from Chinese nationalists in the media and the PLA, and President Xi Jinping feeling his way into his new role. Japan is a domestic hot button issue and any move by the government that could be interpreted as pushback against Japan would appeal to a small but highly vocal section of nationalists in the media as well as the PLA, which tends to take stronger stances on Chinese territorial sovereignty than the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That, combined with President Xi's relatively new leadership, could be a way for him to consolidate his authority.

What does this mean for India?

Well, hawks would immediately jump to the conclusion that China is more aggressive in its foreign policy, which does not bode well for its relations with India. Certainly, China's announcement of the ADIZ was unexpected. It was done without any consultation with Japan and has thus been seen as very disrespectful. It has also been called unnecessary. Since the ADIZ is not jurisdictional, it makes no legal difference to China's claim over Diaoyu/Senkaku.

A more sober look, however, would take into account a few additional facts. First, many countries have an ADIZ and establishing one is not surprising in itself. It's possible the Chinese government did not realise that the establishment of the ADIZ would lead to this strong backlash. In their eyes, they were establishing parity with Japan, not needling it. Second, China backed off from their initial terming of the ADIZ as "emergency defensive measures" and insisted that they just want notification from aircraft entering the airspace, and are not about to respond with force.

Third, as The Diplomat pointed out, China is engaging in "lawfare" — using international institutions to achieve strategic goals. This is indicative of acceptance rather than the rejection of the current international order. Fourth, because China, like all other countries, has a right to an ADIZ, the ADIZ itself should not be the problem. Rather, China's actions should be scrutinised.

If Japanese planes flying towards Diaoyu/Senkaku are intercepted on a regular basis, that would be more of an issue than the establishment of the ADIZ itself, unexpected though it may have been. Last, unpalatable as this may be to the Indian power elite, given the focus on the "China threat", India, currently at least, simply does not factor into China's strategic priorities. China is intently focused on the United States. Implicitly, this may actually be a good thing, leading to maintenance of the status quo for the foreseeable future.

Not just about the islands - The Hindu
 

happy

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China tightens air defense zone, warns foreign planes

BEIJING—China said on Friday it had begun to issue warnings to foreign military planes entering its self-declared air defense zone over the East China Sea amid heightened tensions with its neighbors, especially Japan.

Bitter rhetoric between the neighbors has spiked since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a late-December visit to a war shrine in Tokyo that outraged Beijing.

Abe this week compared the tense relationship to the pre-World War I rivalry between Britain and Germany.

Japanese officials say the comment was meant as a warning to avoid war.

Chinese state media quoted air force spokesperson Shen Jinke as saying several kinds of Chinese planes recently patrolled the sweeping zone that was declared in November.

Warnings issued

He said the planes identified several foreign military aircraft, flew alongside them and issued them warnings.

He didn't identify the planes or say when the patrol was conducted.

The zone is a "purely defensive measure that conforms to international practice," Shen said.

The United States, Japan, the Philippines and other countries denounced the zone's declaration in November as provocative and said they would ignore China's demands that their military aircraft announce flight plans, identify themselves and follow Chinese instructions.

China has said it would take unspecified measures against aircraft that disobey.

In a policy speech on Friday in Tokyo, Abe reiterated Japan's position, saying it would "not tolerate any attempt to change the status quo by force."

He said Japan would beef up its defensive capabilities "in order to defend the safety in the southwestern region, as well as the vast sea and airspace around Japan."

Military flights

The zone is seen primarily as targeting Japanese and US military flights over the East China Sea. Its declaration followed more than a year of heightened tensions between China and Japan over control of a series of tiny uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

The zone pointedly incorporates the island chain, known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, which are controlled by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.

The zone also incorporates a vast area of international airspace from Taiwan to the Korean Peninsula and overlaps in places with zones enforced by South Korea and Japan.

China and Japan have been engaged in a heightened war of words since Abe visited the Yasukuni shrine honoring war dead, including commanders executed as war criminals for committing atrocities in China and elsewhere during World War II.

China has furiously protested the visit and launched a new round of invective against Japan in international media and diplomatic circles.

Abe says the visits are intended to pay homage to those who died and to show his commitment to pacifism, not to praise war criminals.

Signs of belligerence

China's foreign ministry said Abe's World War I comments made on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switerzerland, and his visit to the shrine were signs of belligerence.

"The Japanese leader, while paying lip-service to a positive peace policy, is effectively adopting a policy of military expansion and preparation for war," ministry spokesperson Qin Gang said on Friday.

But Japan's Cabinet Secretary Yoshide Suga said Abe was drawing the Britain-Germany analogy as a warning for the two Asian countries not to repeat the same mistake of being drawn into a war despite their extensive trade ties.

Suga also told reporters that he is aware of reports that China had issued warnings to foreign aircraft, but declined to confirm them.

"I don't understand what China means by voice-warning," Suga said. Japan's defense ministry has not reported any "abnormal flights" by Chinese military jets since Beijing declared its air zone, he said.

Escalation of tensions

China's announcement about issuing warnings shows Beijing is serious about enforcing the zone and will likely be seen as an escalation by Japan and others, said Huang Jing, a China expert at Singapore National University's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

China has consistently unnerved its neighbors since announcing the air defense zone with no advance warning and little explanation, he said.

China has rejected all such criticisms, and a government-backed scholar said a significant sector of the public believes Beijing hasn't gone far enough in challenging Tokyo and the United States.

"Japan has its own air defense zone, so why shouldn't China? This is something China should have done a long time ago," said Qu Xing, head of the China Institute of International Studies, a think tank affiliated with the foreign ministry.

Read more: China tightens air defense zone, warns foreign planes | Inquirer News
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook
 

happy

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China ships in disputed waters after Shinzo Abe's World War I claim: Japan | NDTV.com

Tokyo: Chinese ships sailed through disputed waters off Tokyo-controlled islands on Monday, days after Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe caused an international stir by comparing Sino-Japanese relations with the run-up to World War One.

Around 9:00 am (0000 GMT), Chinese coastguard vessels entered the 12-nautical-mile territorial waters of one of the Senkakus, which China claims and calls the Diaoyus, Japan's coastguard said.

It came as Abe was in New Delhi, where he and Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh affirmed plans to strengthen defence cooperation, including conducting joint maritime exercises on a "regular basis with increased frequency".

His three-day visit to India is being keenly watched by China, analysts say. Beijing is sometimes uneasy about what it sees as an attempt by the US-backed Japan to encircle it.

Beijing also has an often-fractious relationship with Delhi, partly because of a border dispute that erupted into a brief war in 1962. India is keen to burnish friendships in the region to offset its neighbour's growing might.

Abe was in Delhi days after he drew a comparison between Japan and China's relations and those of Britain and Germany as they stumbled towards World War One.

For its part, Beijing has sought to conjure the spectre of Nazism by comparing Abe with Hitler and urging him to emulate Germany's post-war contrition.

Chinese state-owned ships and aircraft have approached the Senkakus on and off to demonstrate Beijing's territorial claims, especially after Japan nationalised some of the islands in September 2012.
 

amoy

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As background info 2014 is the 120th anniversary of First Sino-Japanese War - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia In Chinese calendar every 60 years is a circle.



The Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed on 17 April 1895. China recognized the total independence of Korea and ceded the Liaodong Peninsula (in the south of the present day Liaoning Province), Taiwan and the Penghu Islands to Japan "in perpetuity". The disputed islands known as "Senkaku / Diaoyu" islands were not named by this treaty, but Japan annexed these uninhabited islands to Okinawa prefecture in 1895. China asserts this move was taken independently of the treaty ending the war, and Japan asserts that they were implied as part of the cession of Taiwan.

Additionally, China was to pay Japan 200 million Kuping taels as reparation. China also signed a commercial treaty permitting Japanese ships to operate on the Yangtze River, to operate manufacturing factories in treaty ports and to open four more ports to foreign trade. The Triple Intervention, however, forced Japan to give up the Liaodong Peninsula in exchange for another 30 million Kuping taels (450 million yen).

After the war, according to the Chinese scholar, Jin Xide, the Qing government paid a total of 34,000,000 taels ( 13,600 tons ) of silver to Japan for both the reparations of war and war trophies. This was equivalent to (then) 510,000,000 Japanese yen, about 6.4 times the Japanese government revenue.
 
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happy

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@amoy, I didn't get your point ?? Pls elaborate on your POV.
 
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amoy

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@amoy, I didn't get your point ?? Pls elaborate on your POV.
the 1st Sino-Japanese War was a turning point in East Asian history - Japan consequently rose as the top power whereas China sank along with Asian's biggest navy (Beiyang Fleet) then.

Against the high backdrops of high nationalism China is unlikely to budge from the confrontations with Japan (ADIZ included).

Also post #232 offers a bit background for #228 related to Diaoyu Islands dispute .

The Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed on 17 April 1895. China recognized the total independence of Korea and ceded the Liaodong Peninsula (in the south of the present day Liaoning Province), Taiwan and the Penghu Islands to Japan "in perpetuity". The disputed islands known as "Senkaku / Diaoyu" islands were not named by this treaty, but Japan annexed these uninhabited islands to Okinawa prefecture in 1895. China asserts this move was taken independently of the treaty ending the war, and Japan asserts that they were implied as part of the cession of Taiwan.
 
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happy

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the 1st Sino-Japanese War was a turning point in East Asian history - Japan consequently rose as the top power whereas China sank along with Asian's biggest navy (Beiyang Fleet) then.

Against the high backdrops of high nationalism China is unlikely to budge from the confrontations with Japan (ADIZ included).

Also post #232 offers a bit background for #228 related to Diaoyu Islands dispute .
Well, does either of you have any proof of your assertions ???? I guess not !!! Or else, this would have been solved a long time back.

So, China declaring the ADIZ as retaliation for Japan's actions nearly after half a century cannot be termed as RETALIATORY at all. Instead they can be termed as China's assertiveness arising out of its growing military strength and a direct result of its threatening and bullying tactics.
 

amoy

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happy;847442 So said:
RETALIATORY[/B] at all. Instead they can be termed as China's assertiveness arising out of its growing military strength and a direct result of its threatening and bullying tactics.
Singh's post has clarified ADIZ long time back, rather than your allegation of Chinese "retaliatory", "assertiveness" or " bullying". so u @happy ?


What's an ADIZ?
Why the United States, Japan, and China Get It Wrong

China's recent announcement of an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea has generated a great deal of confusion and alarm. Much of that is a function of the fact that few know what an ADIZ is, what it is for, and why it matters -- including, apparently, the Chinese government and military.

An ADIZ is a publicly defined area extending beyond national territory in which unidentified aircraft are liable to be interrogated and, if necessary, intercepted for identification before they cross into sovereign airspace. The concept is a product of the Cold War: in the 1950s, the United States declared the world's first ADIZs to reduce the risk of a surprise attack from the Soviet Union. Today, the United States has five zones (East Coast, West Coast, Alaska, Hawaii, and Guam) and operates two more jointly with Canada. Other countries that maintain ADIZs include India, Japan, Norway, Pakistan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.

In addition to providing an added measure of security, an ADIZ can help reduce the risk of midair collisions, combat illicit drug flows, facilitate search-and-rescue missions, and reduce the need for fighter jet sorties for purposes of visual inspection. This last point is the most important: ADIZs can increase transparency, predictability, and strategic stability by reducing uncertainty on both sides about when, where, and how aerial interceptions might take place. In 1960, for example, the Soviet Union had no clearly established air defense identification zones and procedures, and the resulting confusion led to a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft being shot down over international waters.

There are no international agreements governing any aspect of an ADIZ. States are neither explicitly authorized to establish them nor are they explicitly prohibited from doing so. ADIZs usually extend into what is universally acknowledged to be international airspace, even by the countries that maintain them, and in no way confer any sovereign rights. Off southern California, for example, a U.S. ADIZ stretches more than 400 miles out to sea. Since states have the right to regulate air traffic only over their sovereign territory, countries are not legally obliged to comply with another countries' ADIZ requirements in international airspace, but they tend to do so because of the security and safety benefits to all. An air defense identification zone is about security and safety, not politics or law.

So why did China establish its East China Sea ADIZ?

Reducing the risk of surprise attack cannot have been part of the equation, because there was no real danger of that to begin with. Tensions in the region are undoubtedly high at the moment, but this is not your grandfather's Cold War. No country wants a major shot to the heart of the global economy. The danger of surprise attack is highest when at least one party to a conflict considers war inevitable and thinks that getting in the first blow would deliver a decisive military advantage. To the extent that China's ADIZ has deepened regional fears about China's long-term intentions, it has actually increased this risk.

Also implausible is that China sought to reduce drug smuggling in the East China Sea, which is not a significant drug route. And given the multiple and overlapping maritime jurisdiction claims in the area, there is no shortage of willing search-and-rescue providers. Not surprisingly, neither motive figured in the Chinese defense ministry's statement announcing the establishment of the zone.

The desire to reduce the risk of midair collisions is a marginally more plausible explanation. The problem here is not commercial air traffic, which is already under good regulation in the East China Sea (anyone with an Internet connection can monitor it in real time). Rather, it is military flights, as was demonstrated in 2001 when a U.S. Navy EP-3 collided with an F-8 fighter from the Chinese Navy over the South China Sea.

In the case of military flights, the risk of midair collision primarily stems from conflicting understandings of overflight rights. Most countries insist that their militaries have a right to fly freely in international airspace. The United States allows this even within its own ADIZs, subject to possible observation. By contrast, China and a small number of other like-minded countries, including Brazil, insist that a coastal state has the right to regulate at least some military traffic in the airspace over its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) -- the maritime area extending 200 miles from its shores over which it has special exploration and resource exploitation rights. This difference of opinion led directly to the EP-3 incident: the pilot that intercepted the American plane took exception to its presence in China's EEZ and in the process of attempting to scare it away clipped its wings. Since proclaiming an ADIZ puts even more pressure on China to intercept foreign military flights, it actually increases the risk of such accidents.

It is evident that China's ADIZ has no prospect of increasing transparency, predictability, or strategic stability. It has prompted confusion among commercial airlines and ostentatious demonstrations of noncompliance by the U.S., Japanese, and South Korean militaries. Since China's ADIZ overlaps with Japan's, there is now a very real possibility that a plane in the area could receive conflicting instructions and face simultaneous Chinese and Japanese interception. From a security and safety perspective, China's announcement clearly makes things worse, not better.

The common wisdom, no less wise for being common, is that China declared an ADIZ in the belief that it would aid in its dispute with Japan over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands. Chinese leaders could have believed this for one of two reasons: first, they believed that an ADIZ signals or confers sovereign rights; or, second, they believed that declaring an ADIZ covering the disputed islands would enhance their bargaining position. The former is demonstrably wrong; if this is what they believed, they should immediately fire their international lawyers. The latter belief would only be justified if bargaining was taking place and if Washington and Tokyo could be cowed. This has proved demonstrably wrong, too, and if this is what they had in mind, they should fire their political analysts.

It is evident that China miscalculated. But China is not the only country that is worse off as a result. East Asia has suddenly become a more dangerous place.

It is unrealistic to expect China to walk back its ADIZ unilaterally. That would be a major embarrassment both for the Chinese military and for the regime, both internationally and domestically. But strident noncompliance represents an embarrassing loss of face for Beijing as well. It also reinforces Chinese misconceptions about the legal implications of an ADIZ. So too does South Korea's tit-for-tat expansion of its own air defense identification zone, which will only further increase the dangers of inadvertent confrontation. By taking a hard line, China's adversaries have put Beijing in an even bigger bind.

Sometimes when someone does something embarrassing in public, the smart thing to do is to pretend not to notice. Admittedly, this is now somewhat difficult; Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington have already reacted. But they can drop the subject publicly and start quietly arranging some rules of the road with Beijing, behind the scenes, that let it save face while operationally returning to the status quo ante.

China is on record having established an East China Sea ADIZ; the United States and its allies are on record having rejected it. Let the public conversation end there. At the end of the day -- as far as sovereignty is concerned -- it is all much ado about nothing anyway.


What's an ADIZ? | Foreign Affairs

@Ray
 
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happy

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Singh's post has clarified ADIZ long time back, rather than your allegation of Chinese "retaliatory", "assertiveness" or " bullying". so u @happy ?
It seems you have not learnt anything from that post. No wonder you keep repeating the same bs.
 
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happy

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Peace Is the Only Answer in China-Japan Island Dispute - Geopolitical Monitor

The East China Sea territorial dispute between China and Japan figured prominently in various geopolitical risk forecasts for 2014, and with good reason. Neither side shows any sign of standing down, and with every new military deployment near the contested area comes an increased risk of a small-scale military incident spiraling into war.

Anti-Japanese sentiment in China runs deep, fueled by memories of Japan's brutal invasion and occupation during World War II. These feelings have been strengthened by the Chinese education system and state-controlled media, along with frequent examples over the years of half-hearted and waffling contrition on the part of the Japanese government. They have even been absorbed into the national narrative of China's rise, such that China will only receive the official stamp of superpowerdom once Japan has been fully eclipsed in East Asia - politically, economically, and militarily.

As architect of China's rise and self-professed redeemer of the Chinese nation, the Communist Party of China (CCP) needs to take these feelings into account. To neglect to do so would contradict the Party's own carefully-crafted national mythology, and consequently erode the legitimacy of its one-party rule.

The dispute over the Diaoyu Islands (Senkaku in Japanese) is one issue where the CCP is prisoner to its own logic; thus, we shouldn't expect any dovish overtures from Beijing, especially so long as the Abe administration insists on rattling the cage.


Though the underlying motivations may differ, Japan appears just as intent on not backing down. The resurgent nationalist vein that helped propel Shinzo Abe into power maintains that Japan has apologized enough for its militarist past, and it should now stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other major powers in international society as a "normal," aka not abashedly pacifistic, democratic country.

Japanese politics seem to be at a crossroads, one with any number of disconcerting historical parallels (interwar Germany for one). After decades of deflationary economic malaise and ringing condemnations from its neighbours, a political force has arrived promising a reason for Japanese people to hold their heads high again. The elixir of Abenomics has already worked its magic on the economy – at least for the time being.
Now all that remains is the question of Japan's role in East Asia: Will it be a passive pole of US military power, or an assertive regional player that actively leans into China's expanding capabilities?

This is a question that Prime Minister Abe would happily answer if given the chance, and with his oft-stated dream of amending Japan's pacifist constitution and incendiary visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, it's no great secret what form his answer would take. Whether or not the Japanese public will allow him to do so is another story. Although recent polls have shown a troubling anti-China trend (over 90% of the Japanese public have an "unfavorable" impression of China), Japan's pacifist worldview is still largely intact, with 57% of the population opposing a government push to reinterpret Article 9, which would allow the Japanese military to participate in collective defense operations with the United States.

With both sides stubbornly insisting on the righteousness of their cause, the Diaoyu dispute stands as a serious problem with no easy solution. Both governments know that war would be economically disastrous, with annual two-way trade between China and Japan in excess of $340 billion, yet war remains a distinct possibility if the present course is maintained.

The U.S. Diplomatically Sidelined

It follows that if peace is to reign in the East China Sea, an outside mediator might be needed to defuse tensions and foster some kind of constructive dialogue between China and Japan. At first glance, the United States appears to be the most likely candidate. Armed conflict between Japan and China is about the last thing Washington wants to see in the Asia Pacific region, especially since it would be legally obligated to join in under the terms of the US-Japan security treaty. These concerns were echoed at a recent high-level defense meeting in Seoul, where Admiral Samuel Locklear, the head of US Pacific Command, urged a diplomatic solution to the East China Sea dispute, warning that it would take just one miscalculation from an inexperienced naval officer on either side for a full-blown crisis to break out.

Yet while it's certainly true that the United States has a lot to lose in any conflict over the Diaoyu Islands, the Americans are not viewed as an impartial party in the eyes of the Chinese leadership. To Beijing, the enduring US military presence in the Asia Pacific – which itself hinges on the US-Japan security treaty – is a cold war anachronism that has been quietly repackaged into a containment strategy aimed at China. This perception of a pro-Japan bias hampers the US government's ability to step in and broker a deal to end the dispute, leaving it with the single and thus far futile recourse of pressuring its ally in Tokyo to stand down.

The Taiwan Factor

There is another party embroiled in the East China Sea dispute, albeit one that is frequently absent from the headlines. Taiwan maintains its own claim to the islands, and it is geographically closest to the tiny archipelago. The Ma Ying-jeou government has also displayed some diplomatic flexibility vis-à-vis the obstinance on display in Beijing and Tokyo. In April of last year, Taiwan and Japan agreed to a fishing accord granting Taiwanese fisherman access to Japan's exclusive economic zone around the disputed area. The deal stands as a positive example of mutual economic benefit beating out the short-term political expediency of a populist line.

The Ma government in Taiwan is also promoting a more comprehensive diplomatic solution to the conflict in the form of its East China Sea Peace Initiative (ECSPI). The plan calls for a peaceful resolution to the dispute that: avoids antagonism; promotes dialogue; abides by international law; establishes a code of conduct; and allows for joint exploration and development of resources in the disputed area. Though it's unlikely the Taiwanese plan will be accepted at face value by China, which views the self-governing island as its own province and thus lacking in the authority to engage in multilateral diplomacy, the ECSPI is the best attempt so far at taking this precarious regional flashpoint and transforming it into an economic boon for all parties involved.

Moving Forward

Like so many other disputes past and present, it doesn't matter so much which party is "right" on the Diaoyu Islands, but that the issue is resolved in a peaceful manner. Doing so will require an act of faith from both Japan and China. Abe may already be attempting, however feebly, to atone for his recent shrine visit, declaring that "no heroes rest at Yasukuni" in a Davos speech that was roundly panned by Chinese and South Korean diplomats. It will take a lot more than that to reopen the regional lines of communication, and the task might fall to the Japanese people, who need to send a message to Abe that his dream is not a shared one.

A diplomatic opportunity lies in Japan's self-marginalization if Beijing is willing to seize it. If the Chinese government can transcend the bitter history involved and take the lead in implementing the spirit of Taiwan's ECSPI plan, it would go a long way in proving that Beijing is a responsible force in the region. This would serve Chinese interests in a wider sense, from defusing tensions in the South China Sea and sapping regional support for a greater US military presence, to even accruing some of that much sought-after soft power. When viewed in this light, the cost of serious, though ultimately passing popular dissatisfaction might be worth paying in order to shore up longer term strategic considerations.

Given what's at risk – the lives, wealth, and legacy; not just in East Asia but the world – the decision to seek a peaceful solution should be a no-brainer.
 

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