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 38.

    re. 35.LucyJ:

    " our enemy"

    That may be a bit harsh. Competitors or rivals certainly, but enemy implies a degree of enmity that I don't they have for us. In today's global economy China and the U.S.need each other more than either cares to admit and that's a powerful argument for peace. This incident will generate a lot of hot air but it will blow over.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I wouldn't be surprised if when the aircraft carrier USS George Washington finishes it's typhoon relief mission in the Philippines it conducts some flight ops in the area around Senkaku on it's way back to it's home port in Japan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    35. LucyJ "China wants to take down USA"

    Well no doubt,some in the US would like to take down China,as long as they can be kept apart it will be better for all.Its been good debating with you lucy,keep buying American ( better still British) & take care...

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Pffft: US greater enemy is poverty

    USA didn't used to be in poverty until we lost majority of our manufacturing to China
    in which we lost all our jobs, homes, health care, college, etc

    I know our Congress is to blame for that and not China who simply took advantage of opportunity
    but the problem is now China wants to take down USA
    which is why they are now our enemy

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Pfft:" greater enemy"

    USA and Russia were going through Cold war and then WWII happened and both USA and Russia worked together to fight the Nazis, a 'greater enemy'

    But USA must also be cautious that someone- a third party- doesn't try to start a fight between us and China to take us both out

    Pffft: poverty

    Much of our current poverty due to our negative relationship with China

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    30. LucyJ " greater enemy"

    Hope I don`t offend.US greater enemy is poverty.Been to US,11 times,rented a car & drove.You have a greater imbalance between well off & poor,than here in the UK.Yes we have needy council run estates but they are not Trailer parks.The NHS despite its faults is good.US arms spend is taking from other areas like education & health,US needs to look after its own..

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Pffft: war does not prove

    I hope we don't have to ever go to war with them either

    But something in the USA China relationship
    needs to change because we are too close for comfort

    Our current USA China relationship benefits China
    but harms America

    Pffft: If China invaded California

    Red Dawn remake was supposed to be China
    until China wanted it changed to N Korea

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    30. LucyJ

    It must not happen Lucy,war does not prove who`s right just who`s left.
    If China invaded California then ok,but up to that point talk it out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Pffft: easy for a little brother to get big brother in to a fight

    Like Howie Long's older son on St Louis Rams jumping onto football field to help his younger son on Chicago Bears who was in fight onfield
    which was then broken up by refs

    I don't think Japan wants to start a war
    but I do feel like at one point war between USA and China might be inevitable unless there is a greater enemy

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Expect changes in China in the next few years. No one-party state survives the ten years after hosting an Olympics as the residents of Berlin, Moscow and Sarajevo will attest. Let's just hope the Powers-That-Be in Beijing make it a smooth regime change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    27. LucyJ

    China's neighbors can handle China better than the West. Vietnam`s had a history of struggle against China & its still independent,carefully Juggling China's assistance given it, during s war with the US & political interference.Flash points must not drag the US into another war.Its easy for a little brother to get big brother in to a fight.If you get my drift

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Scott: sending Joe Biden to China could be a miscalculation on the part of the White House

    That is worrisome

    I would feel better if we were sending a military representative or diplomat instead

    Pffft: if things turned deadly,those lumbering B52`s would be easy to shoot down

    It was absolutely a huge risk in which anything could have happened

    But we had to show we defend our allies

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    re. #3.psycros
    "They also hold a huge amount of US debt. Should real hostilities flare, Washington might have an excuse to simply annul that debt"

    I'm sure some economists would spoil it though with dire predictions of provoking global economic chaos.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    You know, China, the U.S. doesn't have to fight this out. We can simply step aside and allow Japan to rearm.

    Is that you want?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    16. LucyJ

    Hi Lucyj,

    The point I was making.No one knew 100% what would be China's reaction.Some one ordered to fly a probing mission, if things turned deadly,those lumbering B52`s would be easy to shoot down.
    UK history showed that when taking on a modern aggressor,old
    equipment caused too many avoidable fatality's.
    When ordering loved ones into possible harms way,give them the best.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    In spite of the gravitas of his office sending Joe Biden to China could be a miscalculation on the part of the White House. The man has a bad history of embarrassing remarks and mistatements, not the best sort of person to represent us in sensitive diplomatic negotiations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Scott: Irrelevant to the point I was making

    I just wanted to throw that out there

    But you are correct this is not just about the islands or the oil-
    this is about ownership over the whole South China Sea

    China is letting its neighbors know that it is going to rule Asia

    Could one day China try to take over all its neighboring countries?

    China's strategy is total domination

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Given the nature of the islands its possible that China made its claim of ownership calculating that the Japanese wouldn't put up a struggle over such useless hunks of rock. Now that they've been proven wrong instead of backing down and losing face they're upping the stakes in hopes of still "winning".

    Its vaguely comforting to see China's leaders aren't any smarter than our own.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    re. 18 by Lucy J,

    Irrelevant to the point I was making. Take a minute to Google China's territorial claims in the South China Sea region to see what I was a referring to.

    re. #16, The US used B-52s for a reason. They're large, unstealthy, and unmistakably warplanes. They were meant to be seen and send a clear signal that the U.S. stands by it's ally in this dispute.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    So basically Japan claimed the islands in late 1800s then ceded them to USA under a trusteeship who then gave them back to Japan

    Now China is claiming the islands saying that they have belonged to them since ancient times

    But if these islands belonged to China since ancient times
    then there would be Chinese living on them since ancient times
    which there hasn't been


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