EDITOR'S NOTE 3/3/2016: This story was first published a few years ago. It is worth revisiting since the air defenses zone is still in effect and still troublesome.
"BEIJING (AP) — The Chinese Defense Ministry on Saturday issued a map of an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone that includes a chain of disputed islands also claimed by Japan, triggering a protest from Tokyo.
Beijing also issued a set of rules for the zone, saying all aircraft must notify Chinese authorities and are subject to emergency military measures if they do not identify themselves or obey orders from Beijing. It said it would "identify, monitor, control and react" to any air threats or unidentified flying objects coming from the sea.
(1) "U.S. policy is that regulatory needs of coastal states on the high seas can be met through special and limited controls. Such controls deal with issues such as pollution, customs enforcement, and fisheries management. These controls are viewed as legitimate servitudes upon the commons when:
a. They do not materially interfere with traditional surface navigation rights.
b. Enforcement measures are only undertaken with "probable cause".
c. Limited regulation is based on legitimate protective efforts for the commons and not as an extension or manifestation of claimed soverignity over any part of the high seas. Typically such special-purpose servitudes include;
SELF DEFENSE, FISHERIES, MINERAL RIGHTS, MINERAL EXPLORATION , AND POLLUTION CONTROL
(2) Note that among the "servitudes over the high seas" that are acceptable under international law we include "self defense". Self defensive zones include "Defensive Sea Areas" and "Air Defense Identification Zones." The extension of an Air Defense Identification Zone over international waters might legitimately include extension over some else's air space with permission, or arguably over disputed territory. The islands in question are recognized sovereign territory of Japan by internationally recognized treaty unquestioned for decades.
"Based on this rule of law, Defensive Sea Areas have been recognized as a special servitude upon the high seas. Defensive Sea Areas parallel the idea of the Air Defense Identification Zones previously described. However , for a Defensive Sea Area to be lawful it can not be established or published in such a way as to deny entry of ships into the area, or in any other way appear to exercise sovereignty over any portion of the high seas."The same is true for the air defense zone, it is permissible only as a needed servitude for defense and may not interfere with legitimate overflights, or be used to infer sovereignty over an area of the High Seas or disputed islands..
(3) As noted in the AP article: "By establishing the air-defense zone Beijing has ... potentially escalated the danger of accidental collisions between the Chinese military and the U.S. and Japanese counterparts," said Tomohiko Taniguchi, a counselor in the office of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. "It poses a serious challenge against freedom of movement in the sky and in the seas."
China claims the zone is in compliance with the practice of other nations that have similar zones to protect their coasts. The new zone overlaps with Japan's existing zone, which also includes the disputed islands.
"This is a necessary measure taken by China in exercising its self-defense right," Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun was quoted as saying on the ministry's website. "It is not directed against any specific country or target. It does not affect the freedom of over-flight in the related airspace." (4) Clearly the Dragon's intent is to further its claim of sovereignty over the disputed islands by demonstrating "effective administration". If Japan and the U.S. wish to challenge this latest effort by China they should provide notice to China, under formal protest, citing the Dragon's establishment of the Air Defense Zone and announce a joint (U.S./ Japan) "aerial recon in force" over the islands.
Then do it. China may or may not respond by sending out a challenge squadron. The proper response to their challenge is to cite the Japanese air defense zone, acknowledge the Chinese air defense zone, and clearly announce the intention to turn back to Japan at the designated coordinates that were noticed to China. Any arguments from the Chinese; reiterate that the joint recon squadron movements are in exact replication of the notice accorded China. The U.S./ Japan squadron should not threaten or fire upon the Chinese aircraft unless clearly fired upon first. If the US/Japanese recon in force is attacked then China's intend to not wait on, or abide by international law is clearly demonstrated. The islands will have to be militarily occupied and defended. If China then attacks such positions it is open war and the U.S. should immediately repudiate all debt to China, no sense paying their bills to make war on us and the move would then have little effect on U.S. credit.
Most of the time the vast U.S. debt that China is holding seems like a leash around our necks. Unfortunately both China and the U.S. forget that debtors also hold power of lenders. In this looming naval war whoever shoots first loses. If China fires a shot the United States and Japan could cancel their debt to China in a heart beat and probably brook little or no international pressure on their credit, where as China would be pushed to the edge of bankruptcy by such a move. Of course China could retaliate by seizing private U.S. business assets in China. As long as the tax payers refuse to cover that loss it might actually prove beneficial in the long run. The assets China would be seizing like General Motors Research and Development facilities would provide an object lesson to U.S. companies prone to out source jobs.
Of course any war is difficult to contain and if China suffered major economic damage over this island grab China might get desperate and expand the war beyond the China seas. Since neither the United States nor Japan have any desire to attack or occupy a square inch of actual Chjnese territory their gigantic land army will be of little use. Their navy while large in numbers is not yet a prime time player outside of the China Seas and likely would be a near total loss if the Dragon tried to operate outside the first island chain. That leaves their missile forces as the only recourse to bring the war to Japanese and American shores. Should China launch a missile attack on the U.S. mainland, that would lead to China being turned into a glow in the dark parking lot over night.
History demonstrates that thug states can only prosper so long before they over step and are brought down. Any way that the Dragon approaches this; war over these islands means eventual ruin for China, and the constant use of her military and coast guard to harass her neighbors into compliance with the Dragon's desires is simply unwise brinkmanship. A true regional leader would be pushing joint development of the sea islands regions. The use of force to bully her neighbors into not resisting territorial theft is not making China any friends in her immediate geographical sphere of influence. Her naval expenditures are thus a waste and poor investment. These are not the actions of a regional, much less world leader.
(5) This latest act is dangerous, more so to China than anyone else. In a war with the United States and Japan, China can expect real help only from that open air insane asylum known as North Korea. Having made so many of her regional neighbors afraid of her, the Dragon probably won't be facing only Japan and the United States though we would't care to speculate who might come in. She now has a lot of local states that would like to see her poor and powerless again. The greatest fear of some of her neighbors is that the United States won't act punitively enough towards a war making China. We would predict that China's greatest damage in such a war would come from local powers coming into the conflict after the dragon is clearly wounded, probably independent of the U.S. and Japanese leadership to simply insure that military defeat equals scorched earth. There will be no Marshall Plan for a post war China. The present regime won't survive such a conflict, but unfortunately in a Confusion society the next regime will probably be just a different flavor of authoritarian. If China really wanted to be effective in challenging U.S. power in the region it would be out leading instead of intimidating.