Friday, January 03, 2014

Why China’s ADIZ Reporting System Actually Makes Sense

Accept for a moment that China’s new air defense identification zone (ADIZ) has been erected purely from a national security perspective and that it is merely coincidence that its dimensions happen to overlap almost perfectly overs its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as claimed, which in turn encompasses the Senkaku Islands and its territorial waters, and the reporting requirements imposed by China on aircraft merely passing through actually make sense to me from a technical perspective. Here’s why.

Credible accounts say that the East China Sea is an area with some of the heaviest air traffic in the world. Now imagine that you are in charge of distinguishing potentially ill-intentioned flying objects from innocent passers-by without the technical sophistication and global reach enjoyed by your United States counterparts. Note also that the offshore parts of the US ADIZ have far fewer aircraft passing through with no intention of entering US territorial airspace. Wouldn’t it make sense to respectfully ask all aircraft entering the ADIZ to report their flight plans, so that you can concentrate on the now smaller number of aircraft (sans the complying ones) that refuse to help out? In fact, this may be the only way that you can avoid being overwhelmed by the noise in the information. It would also be appropriate to issue a caveat to the effect that you may be required to take action to avoid a potential security threat from an aircraft entering the ADIZ if you do not have that information regarding its intents, would it not? After all, you’re the last one to want to touch off an international calamity through misidentification.

Couched in the proper terms, the abovementioned could have been framed and presented as at least as a reasonable, if unprecedented, formula for a Chinese ADIZ. Instead, as is so often their wont, the Chinese authorities announced their ADIZ in the most uncompromising and ominous way possible, earning them across-the-board international opprobrium.

China’s problem is somewhat alleviated by the latest Mainichi revelations of the three year-old prior notice to Japanese MOD and MOFA officials. The attention heaped on Prime Minister Abe’s Yasukuni also helps deflect attention. But I believe that things could have been much easier for the Chinese authorities if they had been more forthcoming about the need for the ADIZ as designed and couched the possible consequences of noncooperation in less assertive tones. But they are what they are, I guess.

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