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Tag: Senkaku Islands

ADIZ wars!

Hard to see how any of this is going to help maintain peace in East Asia. Then again, it wasn’t meant to (HT to Anonymous Joe):

Japan warned Sunday of the danger of “unpredictable events” and South Korea voiced regret following China’s unilateral declaration of an air defence zone over areas claimed by Tokyo and Seoul.
[...]
“We find it regretful that China’s air defence zone partly overlaps with our military’s KADIZ (Korean Air Defense Identification Zone) in the area west of Jeju Island,” said a ministry statement, according to Yonhap news agency.
[...]
The Chinese zone also includes a South Korean-controlled submerged rock that lies within the two countries’ overlapping economic zones, according to a South Korean defence ministry official quoted by the news agency.

The submerged rock in question is Ieodo, a.k.a. Socotra Rock, where Chinese surveillance flights have sharply increased this year. On the bright side, China reassures us that there’s no territorial dispute with Korea over the rock, and as far as I know, neither Korea nor China actually claim it as territory—-according to the UN Law of the Sea, submerged rocks cannot be claimed as territory. On the not-so-bright side, Ieodo features prominently in the regarding the overlap in Korea’s and China’s respective EEZs, although why the rock itself is of any importance in that, I’m not quite sure—Koh Choong-suk, president of the Society of Ieodo Research, tries to explain it here, but I’m still not sure why the rock matters. If you get it, though, please enlighten me in the comments.

Interestingly enough, Japan’s air defense zone also reportedly violates Korea’s in the water’s south of Jejudo.

The JoongAng Ilbo has a nice little map showing the competing Korean, Chinese and Japanese air defense zones in the South Korea Sea East China Sea. One interest thing to note is that Korea’s does NOT include Ieodo, although the Korean Defense Ministry is apparently considering extending the zone.

The United States, needless to say, is not happy about any of this, especially since President Obama is on record suggesting that the United States would defend Japan’s Senkaku Islands in the event of an attack. For that matter, so is the US Congress. Possibly to reaffirm this point, the USAF flew a B-52 through China’s new air defense zone and over the Senkaku Islands. Which was pretty ballsy on Obama’s part, IMHO. China, meanwhile, is sending a carrier group—or should I say the carrier group, as it’s only got one—to the South China Sea. Lovely.

I confess, stuff like this gets me a wee bit nervous, mostly because I don’t know to what extent the Chinese leadership believes its own bullshit. You’ve got Koreans, Chinese, Japanese and Americans involved in this thing now, and you pray no one does anything stupid.

More good news from the Senkaku front

With tensions brewing over the Senkaku Islands, the People’s Liberation Army Daily, the official paper of China’s PLA, is telling the military to prepare for war:

“In 2013, the goal set for the entire army and the People’s Armed Police force is to bolster their capabilities to fight and their ability to win a war … to be well-prepared for a war by subjecting the army to hard and rigorous training on an actual combat basis,” according to yesterday’s People’s Liberation Army Daily, which referred to a training blueprint issued by the PLA’s Department of the General Staff for the entire force.

The directive came in stark contrast to that of its predecessor. In last year’s directive, more emphasis was placed on joint military trainings and co-ordination among different PLA services.

This year’s statement stresses the urgency of real combat abilities in all military training by repeating the phrase “fighting wars”, or dazhang, as many as 10 times in the article, which was no more than 1,000 words. The phrase did not appear in last year’s directive.

Further boosting rosy predictions for the region, Japan is considering basing F-15s close to the islands:

The Defense Ministry is thinking of stationing F-15 fighter jets at a remote airport halfway from Naha to Taiwan to speed up its response to airspace incursions by China near the disputed Senkaku Islands, government sources said Monday.

The planes would be stationed on Shimojijima Island, which is much closer to the Japan-administered Senkakus, which China claims as the Diaoyu, than to Okinawa’s prefectural capital Naha, where the Air Self-Defense Force’s F-15s are based.

Things are getting interesting, with Japan recently scrambling F-15s to tail a Chinese Y-8 patrol plane near the islands, and China scrambling J-10s in response. This move may have been more dangerous than it initially sounds:

The Diplomat calls the Y-8 a transport plane, and it can be, but the aircraft has more than 30 variants. The Y-8 performs everything from Mineral Research, to Geophysical Surveying, to Electronic Warfare to Intelligence Gathering and one variant is simply an innocuous but lethal fully loaded gunship, with two heavy cannons and three heavy machine guns.

It’s the perfect plane for a game of cat and mouse because if the Y-8 ever received fire from Japan’s F-15s, China could simply maintain it was an unarmed transport model carrying troops, or the Y8-F model that carries only livestock.

In the meantime, the plane can perform all manner of sophisticated tests on the seabed floor, while eavesdropping on Japanese communications. China has been flying these planes consistently lately to surveil the contested island chain that’s supposed to hold billions in oil and gas reserves.

Japan is also considering allowing its jets to fire tracer rounds at Chinese planes. And Tokyo is conducting drills to practice retaking a small, remote island.

In The Atlantic, Matt Schiavenza writes:

Just because relations have worsened, of course, does not mean war is imminent: both China and Japan have strong incentives to avoid escalating their bilateral crisis. Nevertheless, the trend in both countries is clear: a robust defense of the islands is good politics and politics, for better or for worse, drives bilateral relations more than either side likes to admit. Whether a rocky outpost in the middle of the East China Sea becomes a mere historical footnote or the start of something more serious will depend on how the two leaders strike a balance between national interest and the wishes of their people.

And in more good news from East Asia…

At least one former Australian defense official thinks China and Japan (and the United States) might be heading to war:

THIS is how wars usually start: with a steadily escalating stand-off over something intrinsically worthless. So don’t be too surprised if the US and Japan go to war with China next year over the uninhabited rocks that Japan calls the Senkakus and China calls the Diaoyu islands. And don’t assume the war would be contained and short.

Of course we should all hope that common sense prevails.

It seems almost laughably unthinkable that the world’s three richest countries – two of them nuclear-armed – would go to war over something so trivial. But that is to confuse what starts a war with what causes it. The Greek historian Thucydides first explained the difference almost 2500 years ago. He wrote that the catastrophic Peloponnesian War started from a spat between Athens and one of Sparta’s allies over a relatively insignificant dispute. But what caused the war was something much graver: the growing wealth and power of Athens, and the fear this caused in Sparta.

I still have a little faith that everybody’s so invested in one another that China, Japan and the United States will not start a war over something so trivial. Still, nationalist stupidity seems to be “trending,” so anything’s possible. I just hope I can upgrade to the D600 before the missiles start flying. Maybe pick up some FX glass, too.

(HT to reader… and the Business Insider)

Math doesn’t look good for Senkaku dispute: WSJ op-ed

So writes MIT associate professor M. Taylor Fravel in the WSJ. To sum up, China is most likely to use force when it’s in a position of relative weakness, and when it own no piece of the territory it claims. Kind of like the Senkakus:

To start, China has usually only used force in territorial disputes with its most militarily capable neighbors. These include wars or major clashes with India, Russia and Vietnam (several times), as well as crises involving Taiwan. These states have had the greatest ability to check China’s territorial ambitions. In disputes with weaker states, such as Mongolia or Nepal, Beijing has eschewed force because it could negotiate from a position of strength. Japan is now China’s most powerful maritime neighbor, with a modern navy and a large coast guard.

China has also used force most frequently in disputes over offshore islands such as the Senkakus. Along its land border, China has used force only in about one-fifth of 16 disputes. By contrast, China has used force in half of its four island disputes. Islands are seen as possessing much more strategic, military and economic value because they influence sea-lane security and may hold vast stocks of hydrocarbons and fish.

In addition, China has mostly used force to strengthen its position in disputes where it has occupied little or none of the land that it claims. In 1988, for example, China clashed with Vietnam as it occupied six coral reefs that are part of the Spratly Islands. China had claimed sovereignty over the Spratlys for decades—but had not controlled any part of them before this occupation.

Sadly, there’s another destabilizing factor out there, too. And one of its names is Dokdo:

The final destabilizing factor in the Senkaku standoff is that both sides are simultaneously engaged in other island disputes. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak recently broke with tradition and became the first Seoul leader to visit the disputed Dokdo (Takeshima) Islands, which are occupied by the Koreans but also claimed by Japan. Meanwhile, China has been dueling with Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea. Tokyo and Beijing may both conclude that whoever prevails in the Senkakus will have a better chance at prevailing in these other disputes.

Doh!

On a related note, Japan wants to develop its own amphibious assault capabilities, a.k.a., marines, a push that has not gone unnoticed in the press over here. Of course, it wasn’t so long ago that Korea was willing to sell the Japanese the tools to do it.

More Korea—China—Japan not getting along stuff

- Ye Old Chosun, quoting Japan’s Sankei Shimbun, is reporting that Korea is refusing to allow a Japan MSDF warship to touch at Busan during upcoming PSI drills hosted by Korea.

The Korean side cites “various circumstances” for the refusal.

When the Japanese side suggested it might be unable to take part in the drill, the United States changed the drill scenario so that the Japanese ship wouldn’t have to touch at Busan.

The drills, featuring warships and planes from the United States, Australia, Korea and Japan, will take place in international waters about 100km off Busan.

The Japanese side also feels the Koreans are objecting to the ships flying the Japanese naval ensign, which is the “Rising Sun” flag.

The Korean Defense Ministry, for its part, hasn’t mentioned anything about denying the Japanese ship entry into Busan.

– YTN is reporting that during talks in New York, the foreign ministers of Korea and China agreed to cooperate in challenging Japan’s historical views.

With Japanese Prime Minister Noda planning to talk about the need to resolve territorial issues through international law in his address to the UN General Assembly, Korea and China agreed the international community should first understand history properly. Or as Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan put it, “It’s an issue related to our history. And this is why Seoul and Beijing have agreed on the need to tell the world the truth about history.” Which sounds to me a lot like Korea taking China’s side in the Senkaku dispute. Which is odd, considering.

– Korea and China, however, have their own issues. Ye Olde Chosun is reporting that China is placing Ieodo under regular aerial surveillance:

China is claiming once again that the submerged rocks of Ieo Island are part of its own territory and included them among places to be monitored by aerial drones. The move came six months after Liu Xigui, the director of China’s State Oceanic Administration, said Beijing would now regularly patrol Chinese waters using both ships and surveillance aircraft.

The Korean side, for its part, plans to respond to Chinese survey ships with Korean Coast Guard cutters, and Chinese warships with ROK Navy warships. Yesterday, the Korea Coast Guard commissioned a 3,000-ton Coast Guard cutter that will be deployed to Jeju-do to patrol the waters around Ieodo.

PS: The Chosun Ilbo is still unhappy with the missile situation. Despite a bilateral agreement with the United States that would allow Korea to expand its missile ranges to 800km, the Chosun wants to know why it’s only South Korea being tied down with these agreements while China, Russia, North Korea and Japan can seemingly build whatever the hell they like. Ye Olde Chosun warns that keeping Korea from obtaining a minimum capacity to defend itself not only threatens the balance in Northeast Asia, but also doesn’t help in maintaining or developing the Korea—US alliance.

No argument from me.

Report: Chinese frigates spotted near Senkaku Islands

The Chosun Ilbo, quoting Japan’s Fuji TV, is reporting that that two Chinese frigates have been spotted 80km northwest of the Senkaku Islands.

If true, this is the first time Chinese warships have entered the waters near the islands. Neither the Chinese government nor media is mentioning anything about warships in the area.

The reported Chinese move is believed to be in response to Japan’s deployment of an additional Aso-class coast guard patrol boat and the JMSDF to the waters near the islands.

The warships are reportedly watching each other using long-range radar and satellite photos, but both sides are armed with guided munitions and could strike one another at any time.

Things are getting complicated around the islands, with Chinese surveillance and fishing patrol vessels and Japanese coast guard patrol vessels confronting one another up close and more powerful warships watching one another over longer distances.

And in more good news, five of China’s military districts have reportedly gone to Defcon 3. China apparently has four defcon levels—three means leave and passes are cancelled for combat personnel and equipment gets inspected and replenished.

The PLA went to Defcon 3 when tensions rose in the South China Sea, too.

And if things weren’t rosy enough, Chinese generals appear to be taking a hard line. Quoting a pro-Chinese paper in Hong Kong, the Chosun reports that during a recent round table talk in Beijing, one of the five generals in attendance called for bold military action if Japan’s MSDF enters 12 nautical miles of the Senkaku Islands or if Chinese civilian ships are attacked. The other four were apparently pro-war, too.

China’s next leader, Xi Jinping, reportedly warned US SecDef Leon Panetta not to get involved, too.

This all said, the Chosun Ilbo says the dominant opinion is still that an armed clash is unlikely as both sides look for ways to talk their way out of this.

China has apparently put the kibosh on the anti-Japanese protests and told Japan it would hold memorial events marking 40 years of Sino-Japanese relations. The Japanese Prime Minister, too, appeared on TV to say he would consider sending a special envoy to China.

UPDATE: Korea Times, quoting Chinese papers, reports that Chinese nuke subs might be in the area, too. And some of the rhetoric employed by Chinese demonstrators has been quite colorful.

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