China to establish air defence identification zone over South China Sea

China has hinted at the establishment of an air defence identification zone over the ‘South China Sea’ region to counter the air movements of the US and its allies in the region. A strong reaction is expected from the South East Asian countries, should China actually end up implementing the decision. Japan, South Korea and North Korea have already lodged their disapproval of the establishment of the air defence identification zone over the ‘East China Sea’.air defence identification zone

China is doing all it can to claim sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and the air defence identification zone is part of the manoeuvres with that very intention, confirmed a Chinese military official. However, the plan still waits on paper while the boundaries of the zone await definition. Details on the matter will be declared officially only after the approval of the Chinese President Xi Jinping, the official added.

The military official stated further, that apart from the island of Hainan, this air defence identification zone would cover two prominent groups of islands, viz. the ‘Paracel’ and the ‘Spratly’ islands. The territorial extent of the South China Sea that China staked claims to, as per the ‘Nine-dash Line’, would have a bearing on the demarcation of the boundaries of the air defence zone. Moreover, China was well aware that the declaration of this air defence identification zone could invite reactions from the US as much as from the South East Asian countries and so China was chalking out its military moves in consideration of this possibility, affirmed the official.

Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia reject completely, the maritime boundary that China claims in the waters of the South China Sea. It is to their coastal borders that China stakes claims, falling back on the ‘Nine-dash Line’, allege these South East Asian countries. It is obvious therefore that should China demarcate its air defence zone on the basis of this maritime boundary, Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia would most certainly react to the decision.

However, the Chinese military official pointing an accusing finger at the US said that it was the US that was responsible for China’s movements aimed at establishing the air defence zone in the South China Sea region. Over the last few months, the US has deployed aircraft cruisers and destroyers in the South China Sea region. The American bomber aircrafts and long range patrol aircrafts hovering over the region challenged China’s sovereignty and the air defence zone would impose constraints on the air movements of the US, the military official said justifying the measure.

China is known to have imposed the ‘air defence identification zone’ in the past, following the dispute with Japan over claims to the Senkaku islands. This air defence zone covering the air territory of Japan, South Korea and North Korea prohibits access without authorization, to planes of any other countries. China had scrambled fighter jets in reaction to the intrusion in this region on the part of the US and of Japan.