China overturned draft air defense zone, expanded it toward Japan
BEIJING--China’s contentious air defense identification zone, announced in autumn, had been substantially expanded from its blueprint toward Japan, apparently reflecting the hard-line stance being taken among Chinese leaders.
In response to an inquiry from The Asahi Shimbun, China's Ministry of National Defense confirmed the eastern tip is 130 kilometers from the Japanese island of Kyushu, about the same distance as the closest point of Japan’s ADIZ to China.
China has repeatedly said it has not targeted any country or objective in setting its ADIZ, but the draft proposal, submitted by the Air Force Command Academy in May, was revised as apparent retaliation toward Japan.
It remains unclear exactly how the draft was revised before the Ministry of National Defense declared the ADIZ in the East China Sea on Nov. 23.
Still, it is believed that hard-liners prevailed while the draft was being considered within the People’s Liberation Army and the Communist Party of China, including the party leadership of General Secretary Xi Jinping.
The academy proposed that the ADIZ correspond roughly to China’s exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles (370 km) off its territorial sea baseline, according to PLA sources and military researchers.
The draft, submitted to PLA leaders, did not include any map.
The research institute even suggested that the zone be shrunk if its plan is considered unfeasible, by pulling back the perimeter to around the Japan-proposed median line between the two countries, the sources said.
A former senior official of the PLA General Staff Department said a distance of 330 kilometers is a “reasonable need” for national defense, considering the speed of fighter jets.
“At least 20 minutes or so are necessary if scrambled fighters are to respond to enemy aircraft before they enter our territory,” the source said.
However, the ADIZ’s eastern tip protrudes toward Kyushu, well beyond China’s 200 nautical mile line.
A researcher said the ADIZ was not set closer than 130 km “partly keeping in mind that China will do nothing more than Japan did.”
China appears to have long harbored dissatisfaction with Japan’s ADIZ.
“The westernmost tip of Japan’s ADIZ is only 130 km from the coast of Zhejiang province,” Xue Guifang, a professor of law at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, wrote in a paper in 2007.
China is demanding advance flight plans not only for aircraft flying toward its territory but also for those just passing through the ADIZ. Such demand was not included in the Air Force Command Academy’s draft.
China began considering creating an ADIZ after a midair collision between its F-8 fighter jet and a U.S. EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea in April 2001, according to senior officials of government-affiliated research institutes.
At an international meeting the following year, a senior PLA official, referring to the accident, in which a Chinese pilot was killed, said China was considering an ADIZ but had yet to designate it, conference participants said.
The leadership of former General Secretary Hu Jintao remained cautious about the PLA’s call for an ADIZ. But things changed after Japan put the Senkaku Islands, also claimed by China, under state ownership in September 2012.
China’s ADIZ covers the uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, which Beijing calls Diaoyu.
“Japan’s logic is ‘I will do this because I want to do this,’ ” Qu Xing, president of the China Institute of International Studies, a think tank affiliated with the foreign ministry, told a news conference Jan. 10. “China is also following the same reasoning. It cannot be our option to exclude Diaoyu from our ADIZ.”
By Nozomu Hayashi and Nanae Kurashige