Editorial: China should stop its provocative acts

The Chinese Defense Ministry has established an air defense identification zone over most areas of the East China Sea, and has warned that it will scramble fighters if aircraft flying in the zone fail to abide by rules set by the ministry.

Such an act is extremely outrageous and dangerous. Over more than half a century, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have maintained their own air defense identification zones over the East China Sea, thereby maintaining peace and order in the region. These are long established practices although there is no clause in international law that provides for establishment of air defense identification zones.

However, China has declared that it will unilaterally occupy the airspace over the area by force, which is a provocative act that poses a threat to security in Asia.

The East China Sea is close to U.S. bases in Okinawa Prefecture. Should a missile crisis occur in North Korea, Japanese and U.S. fighters and warning planes would fly over the sea. In such cases, would China scramble fighters to expel Japanese and U.S. planes from its zone? Chinese leaders, who are excited over their country's increased wealth and strengthened military power, should calm down and recognize how dangerous a military conflict with the United States would be.

It is only natural that Washington is wary of China's latest move. At a bilateral summit meeting in June, U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping confirmed that the two countries have a "new type of great power relationship." Washington also agreed to allow the Chinese Navy to operate in the Pacific Ocean. Still, that does not mean that China has been granted the exclusive right to operate in the western Pacific. The agreement is based on the premise that Chinese forces, which are not used to abiding by international rules and tend to display dangerous and self-righteous behavior, will act decently.

For a Chinese fleet of military vessels to operate on the high seas, warning, escort and anti-submarine aircraft must fly over them. China apparently wants command of the air over the East China Sea and the South China Sea to not only prevent overseas forces from approaching the Chinese Continent but also so China can advance onto the high seas.

It appears as though Chinese forces desire a confrontation with the United States on the Pacific Ocean. As such, the United States should clearly warn China over its provocative acts.

The Japanese government has demanded that the Chinese government retracts its establishment of an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea. Such a zone is different from territorial sovereignty, but the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, which are part of Japan's territory, are situated within the zone recently established by China. If Chinese military planes are to fly over the islands, it would constitute infringement on Japan's sovereignty. Such an act would also be inconsistent with Beijing's insistence that the dispute on sovereignty over the islands should be shelved.

China should retract its air defense identification zone and seek consultations over the issue with other countries that have earlier established such zones. A lack of a Japan-China military dialogue, like one between the United States and China, also poses a risk. Since the United States has established an alliance with Japan and South Korea, Washington could get involved in Tokyo's military friction with Beijing.

The Chinese government led by President Xi has been absorbed in the "Chinese Dream" of surpassing the United States in all aspects. However, China has been enjoying rapid economic growth thanks to peace and order in Asia. China's provocative acts that threaten the region's peace and order could give the international community the impression that China is dreaming of another violent cultural revolution.

November 26, 2013(Mainichi Japan)

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