April 22, 2021
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China may set up ADIZ in South China Sea this year

China is keen to set up a comprehensive Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the volatile South China Sea this year in a bid to bolster its claim and further signaling its desire to expand large scale naval operations in the region to take control of the situation, if hostility breaks out at any point.

But Chinese officials privately admitted that they will try to reach out to their neighbors and send out prior information to close neighbors in the region who could potentially oppose such a move by Beijing in near future.

“We do not want to do what we did with Japan. This was a different case altogether as Tokyo has no respect for China. In reality, we have told the Japanese that China can respond in a harsh way if Beijing’s interests are compromised because of their (Japanese) actions,” remarked a senior Chinese military officer in Beijing.

They also admitted that it is not a desire to create such ADIZ in South China Sea just for fun but it is an increasingly operational necessity to protect Chinese interests in the region and avoid any collision with aircraft and other objects due to frequent activities by regional claimants.

China which is in the midst of expanding its naval operations in the South China Sea and East China Sea has already set up an ADIZ in East China Sea which has angered the Japanese government. Japan perceives the move as a step towards challenging Japanese sovereignty.

The East China Sea move by Beijing has surprised small neighbors who fear China may try to control air actions by reducing the whole region into its domestic airspace.  

China is trying to reassert in South China Sea after some of its close neighbors forged a strong relationship with US which has pronounced Asia rebalancing policy recently.

The ADIZ in SCS will be more chaotic and could grossly interfere in normal air and sea traffic if China fails to take its neighbors into confidence.

Even surface ship movement will be affected in SCS if China sets up an ADIZ as most ships passing through the waters take logistics by air which could be hampered due to Chinese rules.

In fact, ADIZ is a zone that allowed a coastal state to identify, monitor, control and react to aircraft entering this zone with potential air threats.

Now if China goes ahead with setting up an ADIZ in SCS then it will not only affect SCS but could potentially lead to a conflict with its neighbors.

Chinese officials have said that ADIZ in SCS region is a logical outcome after China realizes that some ASEAN members are trying to following Japanese way of expanding claims on disputed maritime territory in SCS.

Once China sets up ADIZ in SCS then all foreign aircraft and ships entering into SCS waters will have to inform Beijing and that might give Chinese Navy a better advantage to monitor aircraft movement in the region.   

Even countries who are conducting joint military exercises with foreign navies in SCS and East China Sea will have to seek Chinese permission first before opting for nay such collaboration.

This can in another way give a new opportunity for China to control maritime traffic in the region and stamp Beijing’s assertiveness in a military non-confrontation format.