Mainichi Shimbun carried the biggest scoop of New Year’s Day as it revealed—it has pictures!—that the Chinese PLA had given an explanation of the Chinese air defense recognition zone (ADIZ) to a Japanese delegation including government officials more than three years before it was announced last November and had proposed coordination regarding the overlapping areas, which, of course, includes the airspace over the Senkaku islands. (The Japanese version here, the slightly shorter and, on at least one material point, inaccurately translated* English version here.) The Japanese side declined to consult and the matter lay there, till now.
This most immediately puts the lie to the Japanese contention that it had not been consulted. Okay, not quite, since the case could be made that the Chinese authorities never made an official approach—this was the third meeting of a working-level group—and the ADIZ was already in place at the time of the meeting, but it still pretty much deflates one of the three major Japanese objections. One of the other two, of course, which I consider is the more important one, consists of the reporting requirements and the possible consequences of noncompliance. (Actually, from a purely technical point of view, the Chinese requirements probably make sense. But I can talk about that on another occasion. I have my own views about the coverage of the Senkaku Island airspace, but they are irrelevant here since this point is all but irrelevant to the global community.)
Okay, a lot of embarrassment there, but it still doesn’t make the Chinese ADIZ arrangement acceptable to the global community. The real problem here is that the Japanese leadership was not made aware of this fact when it registered its complaint and, more seriously, the Japanese authorities had apparently not notified the relevant US authorities of said fact**, forcing the US to share in what appears to be Japan’s great embarrassment.
What does that say about Japan’s competence as a national security ally? From that perspective alone, this must be at least as damaging to the bilateral alliance as Prime Minister Abe’s December 26 visit to Yasukuni. This should be a subtle but career-altering event for many of the Japanese government officials who took part in that fateful meeting.
If anyone got lucky here, it’s the person who leaked the document, since the Specified Secrets Protection Act has not yet gone into force. Yes, you; your jail sentence will be short.
I indicate below where the original and the translation differ with yellow highlight and the translation adds words of explanation
…stated that it roughly matched what China claimed as its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf -- one way to define a nation's ocean borders. The commodore clearly explained that the Senkakus were inside this zone.
** It is possible that Japanese officials did notify their US counterparts, in which case the shoe will be on both feet, so to speak.