China Air Defense Identification Zone

News | December 11, 2013

On November 23, the Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China announced the creation of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Fueled by decades of dramatic economic development, the announcement of the ADIZ by the Chinese authorities is one of the many actions taken to signify an increasingly assertive and robust Chinese foreign policy.

The new ADIZ not only encompasses the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, but also overlaps with the existing zones maintained by Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The Chinese ADIZ requires both military and civilian aircraft passing through the zone to notify Chinese authorities on penalty of emergency military measures. The announcement sparked immediate condemnation from the governments of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States against what they characterized as unilateral Chinese action. American policymakers have refused to recognize the ADIZ, immediately dispatching B-52 bombers into the ADIZ.

Read a roundup of select opinions on this issue, from multiple sources: 

“[The ADIZ] is a necessary measure for China to protect its state sovereignty and territorial and airspace security…China’s ADIZ was established 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, nor does it constitute a threat to any country or region.”—Geng Yansheng, spokesman for Chinese Ministry of National Defense

“Defense Ministry spokesman on China’s air defense identification zone,” Xinhua, December 3, 2013

“The United States is deeply concerned about China’s announcement that they've established an ‘East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone.’ This unilateral action constitutes an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea. Escalatory action will only increase tensions in the region and create risks of an incident.”—John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State

“Statement on the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone,” U.S. Department of State, November 23, 2013.

“The United States is deeply concerned by the People’s Republic of China announcement today that it is establishing an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea. We view this development as a destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo in the region. This unilateral action increases the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculations.”—Chuck Hagel, U.S. Secretary of Defense

"Hagel Issues Statement on East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone,” U.S. Department of Defense, November 23, 2013.  

“As a general proposition, this is of course one more sign of worsening relations between China and Japan, focused in this case on the tiny islands both countries claim to control. As for the immediate reasons for this move, no one outside the central leadership can say with any certainty, and perhaps not even anyone there.”—James Fallows, National Correspondent, The Atlantic

"How to Think About the Chinese Air-Defense News,” The Atlantic, November 26, 2013

“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.”—Chen Weihua, Columnist and Chief Washington Correspondent for China Daily and Deputy Editor of China Daily USA

“Why’s the U.S. Flying Bombers Over the East China Sea?,” ChinaFile, November 27, 2013

“The ADIZ announcement shows that China wants to enshrine in law and regulation the practice of “overlapping administration” which it has managed to establish since Japan’s purchase announcement in September 2012. It wants to “normalize” this de facto situation by bringing its legal and institutional framework up to what it believes is a more equal position with Japan…The problem here is that while China knows that it needs to manage the islands together with Japan, it will not talk directly to Japan about protocols/rules of the road/confidence building measures (CBMs) around islands until Japan admits they are disputed…Some actors within the PLA and Maritime surveillance even say that a “minor crisis” could actually help their position, as long as it doesn’t escalate. They believe they can control escalation.”—Stephanie T. Kleine-Ahlbrandt, Director of Asia-Pacific Program of the U.S. Institute for Peace

“Why’s the U.S. Flying Bombers Over the East China Sea?,” ChinaFile, November 27, 2013

“Despite the mainly negative and critical responses from its neighbors and particularly from Japan, China does not want to hide its confidence and even assertiveness on this matter…One of the main implications of China’s move is that it has been taking every chance to change its role from that of a humble and obedient follower of U.S.-dominated regional and international orders, to that of a new player in the current multiple rule-making processes.”—Jin Kai, Research Fellow at the Center for International Studies, Yonsei University

“With ADIZ, China Emerges As Regional Rulemaker,” The Diplomat, December 6, 2013.