December 5, 2013 12:00 am JST

China's dangerous Senkaku games

It is all Japan's fault. So goes the Beijing line when it comes to issues surrounding Okinawa Prefecture's Senkaku Islands. It is now apparent that China is the provocateur.    

     China declared Nov. 23 the establishment of an air defense identification zone, which covers the Japanese-administered islets, known as Diaoyu in Beijing. The zone should immediately be scrapped. It could infringe on Japan's sovereignty and shake regional stability. 

     ADIZs are areas around countries where fighters are scrambled if foreign aircraft approach without prior notification. They are used to prevent territorial encroachments.

     There are no international laws governing the establishment of ADIZs. Japan has an ADIZ in the East China Sea. Given ongoing tensions and the unpredictability of the situation, however, the Chinese decision is unacceptable.

     The biggest problem with the zone: It covers the Senkakus, which belong to Japan. Chinese reconnaissance aircraft Nov. 23 flew in the ADIZ and neared Japan's territorial airspace around the islands.

     China's repeated provocations, sending patrol ships into waters around the uninhabited islands, have been going on for more than year. The declaration of the ADIZ clearly aims to rattle Japan. It is natural for the government in Tokyo to demand that China rescind its declaration of the zone.

     Military tensions in the East China Sea could increase sharply if China steps up operations in its ADIZ. In its announcement, the Chinese Defense Ministry said it will require all aircraft in the ADIZ to follow its instructions and will take "defensive emergency measures" against foreign planes refusing to do so.

     The ADIZ set by China overlaps those used by Japan and South Korea for daily surveillance. U.S. military aircraft also fly over the East China Sea conducting information gathering and reconnaissance.

     Chinese aircraft therefore may near those of Japan, the U.S. and South Korea. China's declaration of the zone shows it is by no means a responsible international power. It is crucially important for Japan, the U.S., South Korea and other Asian allies to work in unity and urge China to back down on the zone.

     The ADIZ set by China this time is limited to the East China Sea. According to Chinese media, however, a senior military official suggested the government in Beijing eventually intends to declare ADIZs over the South China Sea and Yellow Sea. In such a case, China would provoke the whole of Asia.