Air Defense Identification Zone (East China Sea)

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Chinese and Japanese Air Defense Identification Zones

The East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (abbreviated ADIZ) is an Air Defense Identification Zone covering most of the East China Sea where the People's Republic of China announced that it was introducing new air traffic restrictions in November 2013. The area consists of the airspace from about, and including, the Japanese administered Senkaku Islands (known as the Diaoyu Islands in mainland China) north to South Korean-claimed Socotra Rock (known as Suyan Jiao in China). About half of the area overlaps with a Japanese ADIZ, while also overlapping to a small extent with the South Korean and Taiwanese ADIZ. When introduced the Chinese initiative was controversial as requirements were imposed that other countries with air defense identification zones do not impose[1] and it included contested maritime areas.[2] Critics said the move escalated the Senkaku Islands territorial dispute between China and Japan.[3][4]


The first ADIZ was established by the United States in 1950 when it created a joint North American ADIZ with Canada, citing the legal right of a nation to establish reasonable conditions of entry into its territory. The U.S. does not apply its ADIZ procedures to foreign aircraft not intending to enter U.S. airspace and does not recognize the right of a coastal nation to apply its ADIZ procedures to foreign aircraft not intending to enter their national airspace.[5][6]

South Korea's ADIZ was established in 1951 during the Korean War, also by the United States. It currently does not cover Socotra Rock, known to Koreans as Ieodo. Korean Defence Minister Kim Kwan-jin said that Korea would consider extending its ADIZ in light of the extent of the Chinese ADIZ[7] but an announcement of a change was postponed after a meeting with the United States ambassador.[8]

Japan's ADIZ was created by the U.S. during its post-World War II occupation of Japan. Management of the ADIZ was transferred in Japan in 1969. The Japanese ADIZ is not recognized by China or Russia.[9] Japan unilaterally expanded its ADIZ twice after the US transfer, once in 1972 and once in 2010.[10] On June 25, 2010 Japan extended its ADIZ 26 km west to cover a Japanese island called Yonaguni Island, the island having been intersected by the Taiwan/Japan ADIZ lines originally drawn by the U.S.[11] The government of the Taiwan expressed its "extreme regret" over Japan's handling of the move.[12]

The People's Republic of China announced the establishment of what it called its East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone on November 23, 2013[13] defining an ADIZ as a zone that allowed a coastal state to "identify, monitor, control and react to aircraft entering this zone with potential air threats."[14] Despite several international protests, China's move received broad domestic support.[15]

According to a 2011 study of the justifications for establishing an ADIZ, at that time there had not yet been a "recorded instance of protest" against the initial establishment of an ADIZ.[16]

The Chinese Air Force Command Academy began planning for an ADIZ after the Hainan Island incident and in May 2013 had suggested a ADIZ that covered China's exclusive economic zone, but this was expanded during review by the PLA to the current area.[17]

Administration and Monitoring Operations[edit]

Identification Rules[edit]

According to the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, foreign aircraft in the zone will be expected to abide by the following:[18]

China announced that the rules were in effect from 10 am on 23 November 2013 Beijing time.

On November 26 the state-controlled People's Daily said that while "freedom of flight" would be respected for "normal" flights, the principle would not apply to "provocative flyover and surveillance activities."[19] On November 29 a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman replied to the statement, "You referred many times to ADIZs established by other countries, but there is a difference. For example, an aircraft which is passing through the US ADIZ without entering the sovereign US airspace does not have to notify US authorities," by stating that "different countries have set different rules."[20]

International Reaction[edit]

 People's Republic of China[edit]

The state-run Xinhua News commented that the United States was among the first to set up an air defense zone in 1950, and later more than 20 countries, including Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam[21] have followed suit, which "Washington has taken for granted" and that "as soon as China started to do it, Washington immediately voiced concerns", adding that "they can do it while China can not, which could be described with a Chinese saying, 'the magistrates are free to burn down houses while the common people are forbidden even to light lamps.'" [22] The PRC state-run Global Times referenced the U.S. "deliberately ignor[ing] the existence of the new ADIZ" to say that while some in China had expressed the fear that "the US seems to have gained the upper hand with its action," one should understand that the American defiance is just part of "the psychological battles waged by Washington and Tokyo."[23]

In response to Japan's China ADIZ accusation of "one-sided action" and its demand of China to scrap its new ADIZ[24][25] China's Defence Ministry questioned Japan's justification, double-standards[26][27] and credibility by stating that Japan, having its own ADIZ established 44 years ago in 1969 and unilaterally extended it twice [28][29] and "one-sidedly allowed the zone to cover China's Diaoyu Islands",[26] has "no right" to ask China to withdraw its ADIZ, adding that China would like to ask Japan to "revoke its own ADIZ first, China will then consider this request in 44 years.”[30]

China also accused the European Union of double standards in response to the comments of its top diplomat.[31]

A Chinese Ministry of National Defense spokesman said there were "misunderstandings or even distortions" about the operation of the ADIZ and insisted that it was not a no-fly zone and "will not affect the freedom of overflight, based on international laws, of other countries' aircraft" adding that its purpose was "to set aside enough time for early warning to defend the country's airspace, with defense acting as the key point. The zone does not aim at any specific country or target".[32]

According to an article in the Global Times, a Chinese government publication, "carpings" by countries hostile to China such as Japan are baseless, and nothing more than deliberate "demonization" of China.[33] Then in December 2013, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry explicitly tied the ADIZ to the Senkakus, calling Japan's claims to the islands "illegal and invalid".[34]


The weeks prior to the ADIZ announcement, Japanese media complained that as part of their mandatory Marxism training,[35] Chinese journalists had been ordered to not make any concessionary comments regarding China's territorial claims.[36]

Promptly after the announcement, Japan Air Self-Defense Force sent two F-15 fighter jets to intercept two Chinese aircraft entering the air zone nearby the Senkaku Islands, which is included in the newly-announced Chinese ADIZ.[37]

On November 25, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the measures one-sidedly imposed rules set by the Chinese military on all flights in the zone, and violate the freedom to fly above open sea, a general principle under the international law, "the measures by the Chinese side have no validity whatsoever on Japan, and we demand China revoke any measures that could infringe upon the freedom of flight in international airspace. It can invite an unexpected occurrence and it is a very dangerous thing as well." He denounced China’s declaration as a dangerous attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea through coercion, vowed to protect Japan’s air and sea space, and demanded that Beijing “revoke any measures that could infringe upon the freedom of flight in international airspace.” [38]

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida stated that Japan would coordinate closely with the United States, the ROK, and others on demanding a revocation of the ADIZ measures,[39] while describing China as "engaging in profoundly dangerous acts that unilaterally change the status quo.”[40] Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said that "it's important for both sides to take a calm approach and deal with the situation according to international norms."[41] He also denied Beijing’s claim that it scrambled fighter jets in response to Self-Defense Forces aircraft that had entered China’s new air defense identification zone, saying "there have been no abnormal situations, such as (Chinese) aircraft suddenly approaching (SDF planes in the ADIZ), as announced by China yesterday.” A Japanese official described the Chinese report is a "sheer fabricated story”.[42]

A Chinese spokeswoman said that Japan had put "the security of its citizens at stake [by] asking Japanese airlines not to report flight information to Chinese authorities as required."[43] Tokyo claimed that Beijing was, in fact, the party threatening passenger safety and brought the matter to the International Civil Aviation Organization on December 1.[44]

 South Korea[edit]

South Korea summoned a Chinese diplomat on November 25 to protest the creation of the zone, which includes Korean-claimed Socotra Rock where Korea has built structures.[45] Sources said that Seoul was informed in advance of Chinese plans, however, as Chinese officials stated that with respect to South Korea, "the two sides will solve the issue through friendly consultations and negotiations".[46] South Korea's Ministry of Transport said its airlines would not recognize the Chinese ADIZ.[47] The Koreans said they had launched a joint air and sea military exercise on December 3 to show their "intention to protect our jurisdiction over Ieodo’s waters.”[8] South Korea then extended their own ADIZ over the disputed waters.[48] The Chinese response to the South Korea move was muted, noting only that an ADIZ is not "territorial airspace" and "has nothing to do with maritime and air jurisdiction".[49]


Although the ADIZ announced by Beijing overlaps by a relatively small 23 000 square kilometers with the identification zone of the Republic of China (Taiwan),[50][51] official reaction from Taipei was initially muted, leading to protests from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and some academics that Ma Ying-jeou's government was failing to assert Taiwan's sovereignty.[52][53] On November 29 caucus leaders of both the DPP and ruling KMT party signed a joint statement calling on President Ma's administration to lodge a “stern protest” with Beijing.[54] On December 1, the 70th anniversary of the Cairo Declaration, Ma reasserted Taiwan's claim to the Diaoyutai islands and called on affected governments to peacefully negotiate and pursue the "East China Sea Peace Initiative" he had proposed the previous year.[55]

 United States[edit]

The U.S. said it would ignore the Chinese ADIZ and disregard Chinese orders, although the Obama administration differed from Japan and South Korea in deciding to advise American commercial airlines to comply with China’s demands out of fear of an unintended confrontation.[56] A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman complimented the U.S. decision on airlines saying "The submission of flight plans to the competent Chinese authorities by airlines of relevant countries including the US shows their constructive attitude and cooperative will..."[57] The Wall Street Journal on December 1 reported that "the U.S. carriers are filing flight plans with both Japan and China. At the same time, affected routes are being modified to avoid disputed airspace as much as practicable."[58]

A U.S. State Department statement called China's establishment of the zone a "unilateral action [that] constitutes an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea," adding that "Freedom of overflight and other internationally lawful uses of sea and airspace are essential to prosperity, stability, and security in the Pacific. We don't support efforts by any State to apply its ADIZ procedures to foreign aircraft not intending to enter its national airspace. The United States does not apply its ADIZ procedures to foreign aircraft not intending to enter U.S. national airspace. We urge China not to implement its threat to take action against aircraft that do not identify themselves or obey orders from Beijing."[59]

United States defense secretary Chuck Hagel declared that the Chinese announcement “will not in any way change how the United States conducts military operations in the region.” He also reiterated the official stance that the US would support Japan in the event of a war with China over the Senkaku islands. [60]

The United States sent two B-52 bombers from Guam to fly through the zone on November 26.[61] Although a Pentagon spokesperson claimed that "the planes had not been observed or contacted by Chinese aircraft",[62] the Chinese government claimed to have monitored the U.S. flight,[63] saying that while it took no other action in this case,[4] it "has the capability to exercise effective control over the relevant airspace."[64][65] The Chinese Defense Ministry also said that with respect to enforcing the zone, its military would take "corresponding action in accordance with the situation and the level of threat".[66]

On November 29, 2013, the U.S. Department of State issued a statement titled "China's Declared ADIZ - Guidance for U.S. Air Carriers" that the U.S. government generally expects that U.S. carriers operating internationally will operate consistent with NOTAMs (Notices to Airmen) issued by foreign countries but also stressed that this does not mean U.S. government acceptance of China's ADIZ requirements.[67]

On December 4, 2013, American vice president Joe Biden discussed the issue at length with Chinese president Xi Jinping.[68]


Australia summoned the Chinese ambassador in Australia to protest[69] and the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs issued the following remarks:

The timing and the manner of China's announcement are unhelpful in light of current regional tensions, and will not contribute to regional stability. Australia has made clear its opposition to any coercive or unilateral actions to change the status quo in the East China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry said China cannot accept "the Australian side's irresponsible remarks" and urged Australia "to correct its mistake immediately to prevent damaging Sino-Australia relations."[71] In response, Bishop said that she has, "already expressed our concerns publicly and privately" and that she expected the issue to be "a topic of discussion in my upcoming visit to Beijing."[71]


The Philippines accused China of trying to transform the area into its "domestic airspace."[72] Filipino aviation official John Andrews warned that China might attempt to establish another ADIZ in the South China Sea, where the two nations have competing claims.[73]


Germany said the creation of the zone "raised the risk of an armed incident between China and Japan."[74]


France expressed concerns on the Chinese declaration and called for the parties to stay calm.[75]

 European Union[edit]

The European Union's top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, said "[t]his development heightens the risk of escalation and contributes to raising tensions in the region."[76]


Some Asian airlines and authorities said they would inform China before their airliners entered the contested zone, but would not alter their flight paths or schedules.[77]

Robert E. Kelly, a scholar of East Asian international relations at Pusan National University, suggests that the Communist Party was hoping to boost its own internal legitimacy by appearing to challenge Japan, “the CCP may not want a conflict with Japan, but it’s been telling Chinese youth for more than 20 years that Japan is greatly responsible for the 100 years of humiliation. Now the CCP have to be tough on Japan even if they don’t want to be, because their citizens demand it.” “I always found that factoid that the PRC spends more on internal than external security to be indicative that CCP is very insecure at the top. It’s gotta have an ideology with foreign enemies, otherwise the Chinese people might see the real enemy: the CCP’s corruption, rejection of democracy and unwillingness to admit the horrors of Maoism.”[78]

Analyst Brahma Chellaney said the Chinese move represented what PRC Major General Zhang Zhaozhong called a "cabbage strategy," which involved asserting a claim, launching furtive incursions into the claimed area, and erecting multiple "cabbage-style" layers of security around the contested area to deny rivals access. In Chellaney's view the incursions in turn follow a "salami slicing" strategy whereby each "slice" is thin enough to preclude a dramatic reaction that could become a casus belli on its own, thus casting the burden of starting a war on the encroached upon party.[79]

See also[edit]


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