Newspaper barbs and US bombers flying after China's air defence move

Japanese Navy ships take part in an October 14, 2012, military review.

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As US bombers fly into China's recently declared air defence zone over the East China Sea, tensions are spilling onto editorial pages in Japan, China and the United States.

The East China Sea is "the most dangerous geostrategic fault line in the world", writes the Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. "One misjudgement by either side... could change our world entirely. If you are not concerned, perhaps you should be."

China's air defence identification zone (ADIZ) creates an overlapping area over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which are claimed by both China and Japan. As the parties test each other's resolve, a rapidly escalating war of words is breaking out to pre-emptively assign blame if the military sabre-rattling ends in actual conflict.

"If Japan really dares to get tough and flagrantly creates 'unexpected events' targeting aircraft that are carrying out missions in China's air-defence identification zone, the Sino-Japanese confrontation can be entirely expected to escalate directly into friction or even conflict in the skies," write the editors of China's Global Times.

Japan's Asahi Shimbun counters that China's move is "tantamount to a Chinese declaration that the country is willing to take military action against Japanese aircraft over the Senkaku Islands... China must refrain from any dangerous act of testing the Japan-US security alliance."

Chinese and Japanese papers point to the larger geopolitical issues at stake in this showdown, both for the competing claims over the barren islands within the air zones and for China's status as a growing world power.

Start Quote

China's announcement runs jarringly counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions that erupted last summer over the Senkaku Islands”

End Quote Sheila A Smith Council on Foreign Relations

"The Chinese government led by President Xi [Jinping] has been absorbed in the 'Chinese Dream' of surpassing the United States in all aspects," write the editors of the Japanese Mainichi Shimbun. "However, China has been enjoying rapid economic growth thanks to peace and order in Asia. China's provocative acts that threaten the region's peace and order could give the international community the impression that China is dreaming of another violent cultural revolution."

China's People's Daily shows that two can play the bring-up-the-past game:

Currently, on the Diaoyu Islands issue, the Japanese government is continuing to ignore China's position and deny the existence of any dispute. On historical issues, Japan seeks to detoxify its aggression and avoid its responsibilities; on its attitude towards China it plays up the "China threat" and tries to manipulate an "encirclement of China".

Meanwhile in the US, commentators are wondering what the latest flexing of muscles in East Asia means for regional stability and US Pacific strategy.

"China's announcement runs jarringly counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions that erupted last summer over the Senkaku Islands," writes Sheila A Smith of the Council on Foreign Relations. "Keeping militaries apart and alert to the consequences of miscalculation is the biggest challenge for US, Japanese and Chinese policymakers. This new ADIZ announcement only enhances risk and deepens suspicions."

She continues:

Popular sentiment in Japan and China has become highly sensitive to the island dispute, and both governments are hard-pressed to find a way of managing their differences. This latest announcement by Beijing only exacerbates the risks that the growing interactions of Chinese and Japanese forces in and around the Senkaku Islands will lead to conflict.

Start Quote

One misjudgement by either side in the East China Sea could change our world entirely”

End Quote Ambrose Evans-Pritchard The Telegraph (UK)

Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, director of Asia-Pacific programmes at the US Institute of Peace, writes that the latest events are a sign that Mr Xi is pushing a bolder "great power" foreign policy around the world: "China's recent rhetoric and actions show a move from a defensive, reactive and image-conscious policy to a proactive approach designed to further China's vital interests."

The China Daily writes that Japanese and US "hysteria" is based on a "misreading" of Chinese intentions:

The Japanese and US complaints that the ADIZ is a "unilateral" move that changes "the status quo" are inherently false. The US did not consult others when it set up and redrew its ADIZs. Japan never got the nod from China when it expanded its ADIZ, which overlaps Chinese territories and exclusive economic zone. Under what obligation is China supposed to seek Japanese and US consent in a matter of self-defence?

Alexander Neill of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) contends that this is more than just a routine exercise of Chinese sovereignty, however.

"The ADIZ declaration confirms that the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands are a 'core concern' for China; it places the archipelago in the same category as the South China Sea and Taiwan," he writes. "The US response may be to up the tempo of its own military drills planned for the area, forcing the PLA [People's Liberation Army] into a defensive response, testing both Xi Jinping's resolve and his chain of command."

Today's B-52 flights indicate that this indeed may be the US strategy.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Scott: China's unilateral claim to almost the entire South China Sea

    'After World War Two, Japan renounced claims to a number of territories and islands including Taiwan in the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco. The Nansei Shoto islands came under US trusteeship, being returned to Japan in 1971 under the Okinawa reversion deal'

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    re. 13.TBola:
    "as long as the US bombers "wings are clean", it's not a violation. The problem comes when the Chinese send up fighter escorts to clear the bombers out. Remember that P-3 Orion?"

    1) B-52s have an internal bomb bay.
    2) If the Chinese intercept them they should be polite, if those bombers have an escort of stealth fighters they won't see them until they're on their six.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Pfffft: Why not, just use a drone that's what they are for

    Drones can be hacked or have technical errors

    Pffft: Using 1950/60`s B52 was irresponsible

    Majority of USA's old military equipment still works well
    and in some cases is even better than some of the new equipment

    Our old stuff is dependable and can't be hacked because its not hooked up to online

    The B52's were appropriate

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    China's unilateral claim to almost the entire South China Sea in defiance of international law seriously undermines it's credibility on the Diaoyu/Senkaku issue. China's leaders are apparently insensitive to the image it projects of China as a land grabbing bully. History shows us bullies cannot be appeased: they must be confronted, early and firmly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    China has gotten far to pushy, they claim the ocean from 'Nam past Japan, & now claim Islands that are a Japanese property, plus claiming an enormous amount of air space, all off their South & east coast. The answer, every country that flies that space or sails those seas, should continue to do so and completely ignore China & the U.S., pacific fleet should frequent it all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    The rules here are long since established. The Chinese are not declaring a no-fly zone; as we all do over sensitive military installations. It's an escalation to be sure; but as long as the US bombers "wings are clean", it's not a violation. The problem comes when the Chinese send up fighter escorts to clear the bombers out. Remember that P-3 Orion?

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    The islands should become a world heritage site. Japan should be compensated for them. Science could evaluate the effect of pollution from China. Alternately Japan should sue China for polluting the area from it's various river systems. The islands are closer to Japanese territory.
    As for the gas fields they could be exploited in a joint venture. Then again a drawback of ADI zones would be prudent

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    The Chinese are becoming the bully boys of Asia. Remember Tibet, time we stood up to them and stopped their annexation of the South and East China seas. If they are allowed to get away with this what next, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand or the Philippines.
    So much for peaceful development, their current actions are reminiscent of Germany in 1937.
    Good on the US for standing up for an ally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    If one is going to send ones young folk into disputed air space,for crying out loud give them the best equipment, F22 or similar.Using 1950/60`s B52 was irresponsible,unless flown by the one authorizing this action,but that never happens does it.
    Why not, just use a drone that's what they are for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    noreply: If China pushes it then there may be a whole lot less "Made in China" goods

    China makes trillions every year from exporting products to USA

    I doubt they want to put this in jeopardy over these islands

    Anyhew, if USA hadn't taken this stand
    it would be the same as ceding this sea territory to China

    USA is showing we are not going to abandon Japan
    if China escalates dispute

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    If China pushes it then there may be a whole lot less "Made in China" goods. Their economy is based on cheap exported goods and they have a very small rich upper class and extremely large poor lower class.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Glad to see that the USA still has some sense despite its whacky internal politics. Mr. Xi is starting to eerily remind me of Wilhelm II's talk of "a place in the sun" while proceeding with a gigantic naval construction program and an increasingly aggressive foreign policy, ultimately contributing to the outbreak of WW1. Alas, China is far too culturally insulated to learn anything from that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Japan should do a pearl harbor attack on these small islands and remind the US that weak China is the sick old man of Asia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    @lordbanners: LOL, so its the ol' "give up land for peace" argument again, is that right? Yes, that always works so well. China has expanded its territorial claims half a dozen times in the past ten years, with specious historical precedent for only *one* of them. But I'm sure that's irrelevant to another fine graduate of the "hate America" education programme.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    LordBanners: Britain recognized change and adjusted, not yet in US vocabulary

    That was a whole 'nother time and a whole different situation

    Britain and USA were friendly
    USA and China not so much

    Britain knew that USA was a good ally and would watch out for them
    USA knows that China is not our ally and wants to dominate the world

    USA knows that we have to stick up for Japan

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    China's obsession with outdoing the US in every conceivable way is economic suicide. Its largely American dollars that created the modern Chinese economy. They also hold a huge amount of US debt. Should real hostilities flare, Washington might have an excuse to simply annul that debt and restore the 1980's paradigm when everything was "Made in Japan". Much of Europe would probably follow suit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Between Israel, Saudis & Japan it is difficult for US to avoid Conflict at a time it cannot afford to. This is a move China had to expect, US ego is so predictable. China is Reversing every Imposed Precedent to establish itself Militarily. Expect to see Chinese Drones demonstrate their ability. Britain recognized change and adjusted, not yet in US vocabulary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    USA bombers flying over disputed region is exactly what was needed to show we and our allies are not going to bow to Chinese pressure over its new sea territory claims

    If USA, Japan, etc did what China wanted
    it would be in deference to China
    which would mean we were basically ceding the sea territory to China

    So this absolutely was the appropriate measure

    Good job, USA


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