The Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) is not a Chinese invention. The United States, Japan and some 20 other countries declared such zones in their airspace long time ago.
China’s announcement of its first ADIZ in the East China Sea reflects its frustration with Japan’s refusal to admit that there is a dispute over the sovereignty of Diaoyu Islands, or, as the Japanese call them, the Senkaku. And a number of times Japan has used its own declared ADIZ as a pretext to criticize China of intruding into its airspace, which, in China’s view is disputed airspace.
The declaration of such ADIZ should by no means be seen as a signal that China is willing to shoot down any foreign planes entering the zone without prior reporting. The declaration of the zone gives China a strong legal basis and argument in certain cases, just as Japan did to its advantage in past years.
There is a lot of over-reaction and over-explanation of this as a Chinese provocation. Remember, China has as large a stake in the peace, stability and prosperity in the region as anyone else. Its economy depends on this. Despite the tension, China and Japan’s trade goes on unimpeded. So China would not want military conflict.
It’s just like when President Obama says that all options are on the table, we should not jump into a conclusion that “Obama is ready to nuke North Korea or Iran or Syria...” Yet I see a lot of such thinking here.
I believe leaders in China and Japan are under pressure, trying to appease to nationalistic sentiment in their countries, but I do hope and believe that both have the wisdom to find a compromise in the situation, so as to ensure a win-win situation for both.
The U.S. has a role to play here, given that Vice President Biden is going to China, Japan and South Korea next week. But the U.S. should not just try to reassure its allies, maybe more importantly it should win the trust of China if it wants to be a credible broker. You are not qualified to be a judge of a soccer match if one team happens to be made up of your brothers and cousins. The only way to do that is if you are ready to be stricter with that team, and willing to show more yellow or red cards to your own brothers and cousins at times such as when the Japanese government nationalized the islands a year ago.
The U.S. flying B-52 bombers there, if deliberate, only encourages more nationalistic sentiment in China and adds more pressure on the leaders.