Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Taunting the Dragon

The United States has wasted little time letting China know what it thinks of China's attempt to establish air superiority over the East China Sea and, in particular, the disputed Senkaku island.

In a provocative move last week, China announced the implementation of an "air defence identification zone" over the region and warned that foreign aircraft passing through the Chinese-controlled air zone could either obey its rules or face emergency defensive measures.

Yesterday a pair of B-52 bombers from Guam ignored China's warnings and overflew the area including Senkaku island.   Two Japanese airlines have announced they will follow their government's requests and likewise ignore China's new rules.

That's the problem when a country makes demands and threatens to back them up with military muscle.   If other countries simply ignore the blustering, you've painted yourself into a corner.   In this case if China now tries to molest foreign aircraft passing through its purported zone of control in defiance of China's rules, it could trigger a multi-national response, an international push back.

That's the sort of thing that can get out of hand very quickly.  If, on the other hand, China ignores the defiance, then it looks like it was foolishly bluffing.   That, in turn, could have repercussions in China's other territorial and resource claims in the region.

 Patrick Cronin, an Asia specialist at the Center for New American Security, a research group that advises the Obama administration, said the Chinese are gambling on how Washington will respond.

"China's betting that we are more worried about a military confrontation than they are to some extent, but they're not thinking this through very deeply. China will be embarrassed by some kind of confrontation," said Cronin.

The U.S. sees China's decision to impose restrictions on U.S. aircraft as a dangerous move that analysts say could lead to a major international incident.

"While nobody is looking for conflict, and while it's not likely to lead to war, the possibility and the risk of some shots being fired, or some aircraft or ship being shot at, has increased markedly because of Chinese unilateral changes to the status quo," declared Cronin.

No comments: