The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) – China’s military organization – is considering putting up an air defense identification zone (ADIZ), which serves as a national defense perimeter that triggers fighter scrambles when foreign aircraft enter the zone without prior notification, this according to an internal Chinese military document. This new ADIZ would most likely overlap with Japan’s over the East China Sea, a move that will potentially heighten tensions between the two neighboring countries who are already disputing the sovereignty of several uninhabited islands in the area. The zones are usually set up outside national airspace to prevent entry by suspicious aircraft.
To date, China has not defined an ADIZ. If China were to establish such a zone, it would be certain to overlap with Japan’s ADIZ – now currently set closer to China than the midpoint between the two countries. The internal document – obtained by Kyodo News – reveals that a senior Chinese air force official has proposed strengthening the nation’s air defense operations by setting up a Chinese ADIZ, saying that neighboring countries “are insisting the validity of marine boundaries disadvantageous to our country.” The official also argued that China cannot control its maritime resources effectively without an ADIZ, according to the document.
This proposal comes at a time when there have been recent incidents where Japanese fighters have been scrambled because Chinese aircraft have regularly been approaching Japanese airspace near the disputed territories. The islands are claimed by Japan as the Senkakus and by the Chinese as the Diaoyus. If China does push through with setting up an ADIZ, Japan will not be able to oppose such a move – the setting up of air defense zones are based on domestic law and no international rules have govern them.