China Unlikely to Announce ADIZ in South China Sea

China Unlikely to Announce ADIZ in South China Sea

– Analysis –
By Han Xaio, Guest Blog / New Voices
Han Xaio ( Earned a Bachelor of Law in International Politics from Shanghai International Studies University in 2012, and an MA in International Relations from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University in 2013

After China announced the East China Sea (ECS) Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on Nov.23, 2013, there has been speculation that China may do the same thing in the South China Sea. However, I argue that China will not repeat the ECS ADIZ announcement due to the lack of military capacity, the lack of necessity and the need to present a friendly image to Southeast Asian countries.

The first reason is the lack of air force capability to enforce an SCS ADIZ. After two-decades of modernization, the PLA is able to operate weeks-long military exercises in the South China Sea, but that does not mean that the PLA has the capacity for day-to-day military surveillance on all the aviation actions in the whole region. The rocks and islands scattered in the South China Sea are not big enough for large air force bases and radar stations to cover 2.1 million square kilometers within the nine-dash line, so the PLA must rely on land bases in Hainan, Guangdong and Guangxi.
The James Shoal is an example of this point. It is at the southernmost point of China’s territorial claims. The James Shoal is about 1,900 km (1,100 miles) away from Guangdong. The PLA’s most advanced fighters are the J-10 and J-11. The maximum estimation for J-10’s combat radius is 1250 km, and 1500 km for J-11. In that case, neither these fighters can cover all these regions. If the air force needs to deploy the early-warning planes, these planes have to start from Shuofang Airport and fly all the way down to the South China Sea. They will also face the coordination problem between Nanjing and Guangzhou military regions. However, Diaoyu Dao/Senkaku Islands are about 358 km away from Wenzhou, so the air forces in Nanjing Military Region can enforce East China Sea ADIZ.

The second reason is the lack of necessity. First, the level of military threat is low. It is estimated that the air force in Guangzhou Military Region has about three fighter divisions equipped with Su-27, Su-30 and J-10 aircraft. Vietnam has about 30,000 personals and three fighter divisions, equipped with mainly second generation jet fighters and some Su-27 and Su-30. The Philippines air force has about 17,000 active personal with old and backward fighters. In addition, China’s law enforcement agency has larger ships than the Philippines navy. In that case, China does not face a real military threat from Southeast Asia countries. However, in the East China Sea, at least in 2005 and 2010, there were two confrontations between the Chinese and Japanese navies. After the 2010 Diaoyu Dao/Senkaku boat collision incident and the nationalization of the islands in 2012, there have been more reports on aircraft and warship confrontations. For instance, Chinese and Japanese warships targeted each other twice last January. In these cases, there is a real possibility that any mistake can escalate tensions and cause armed conflict.
Another reason for the lack of necessity is that foreign military deployments provide early-warning time for China. The only military threat China is facing in the South China Sea is U.S. navy. If U.S. plans to attack China, the most likely base will be the Subic Bay. To prepare for this attack, U.S. has to deploy one to two aircraft carrier battle groups to that base first, then travel for several hundred km to approach China’s military bases in Hainan and Guangdong. The battle groups provide visible political signals and military targets to follow.

The last reason is the need to present a friendly image to Southeast Asian states. Doing so serves three purposes: the first is to avoid a military alliance against China. The current policy is to strengthen the control by law enforcement force, and this policy works well now. An ADIZ will be too provocative to stimulate closer cooperation among Southeast Asia countries. A related purpose is to keep United States away from the issue. In order to avoid increased U.S. attention, deployments and intervention, China should not provide incentives. The third reason to maintain a positive image toward the region is to improve peripheral diplomacy. In the past decades, China’s foreign policy guidelines about the region noted the “amicable, tranquil and prosperous neighborhood.” There is no signal yet that China wants to change that. The last point is the need for economic cooperation. Prime Minister Li Keqiang reemphasized that China wanted to push forward the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RECP) negotiation at the Boao Asia Forum early this month. China is also pushing forward the policy of “the maritime silk road” to enhance the cultural, social and economic ties with the neighboring countries. For those ties to flourish, China needs to show its sincere peaceful posture to these neighboring countries. In this environment, for China to announce an ADIZ for the South China Sea would undermine these diplomatic and economic efforts.

China Raises Concerns About Japan’s Nuclear Plans

China Raises Concerns About Japan’s Nuclear Plans

– Analysis –
By Han Xaio, Guest Blog / New Voices
Han Xaio ( Earned a Bachelor of Law in International Politics from Shanghai International Studies University in 2012, and an MA in International Relations from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University in 2013

The Sino-Japanese relationship has deteriorated since Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo came into office last year. Japan’s plan for large-scale reprocessing and storage of plutonium is one of the issues that have triggered new concerns in China.

The news that Japan has resisted returning plutonium to the U.S. first appeared in China’s media on Jan.27, but did not attract wide attention until Feb.17, when Hua Chunying, the spokeswoman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, expressed “ignited concerns” during the daily press conference.(1) After that, Hua and Qin Gang, spokesmen of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, commented on this issue on Feb.20, Feb.21, Feb.24, Feb.25, Feb.26, Feb.28 and March.3. At the same time, the state-run media also expressed grave concerns. Xinhua News Agency urged Japan to explain why it “hoards far more nuclear materials than it needs”,(2) and argues that Japan’s nuclear material stockpile challenges the effectiveness of nonproliferation mechanisms, undermining the security of East Asia.(3) Jia Xiudong’s article in People’s Daily emphasizes the negative implications of the stockpile.(4) Si Chu points out that a nuclear-weapons-capable Japan will destroy the regional structure of East Asia, and it will open questions about whether the U.S. is able to curb a nuclear Japan.(5) In addition, two articles in the PLA Daily worry about Japan’s intention to develop nuclear weapons and to loosen the three non-nuclear weapon principles.(6) The intensity of the information campaign suggests the Chinese government’s strong positions and concerns regarding Japan’s nuclear materials.

China has three main concerns. The leading concern is Japan’s intention. From the perspective of technology, Japan insists on using mixed oxide fuel, a combination of plutonium and uranium. This technology was based on the assumptions that uranium mines were scarce so the prices would go up, and the fast-breeder reactor technology which was viewed as practical. However, these popular ideas from the 1950s and 1960s were proved to be wrong, and other countries are now using cheaper and more effective uranium rods. As such, China suspects that Japan maintains this costly technology to justify its reprocessing capability and production of separated plutonium. From the perspective of size, the nuclear materials Japan has exceed the demands for energy. Chinese experts and government spokesmen emphasize that Japan’s stockpile of 331 kg weapons grade plutonium, 44 tons of other plutonium, and 1.2 tons of enriched uranium violates its promise to keep a supply/demand balance of sensitive nuclear materials to IAEA in 1997,(7) and this unbalance becomes increasingly obvious after Japan shut down most of its nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

The biggest suspicion comes from the political and policy perspective. Chinese experts worry that Japan’s words are not matched by its deeds. For instance, Eisaku Sato formed a four-pillar nuclear policy on the basis of the three non-nuclear principles in 1971, which included that Japan should rely on the nuclear deterrence of U.S. and Japan should follow the non-nuclear policy when it served Japan’s national security. This caveat maintained Japan’s option to develop its own nuclear weapons when U.S. nuclear umbrella was removed or unreliable.(8) Sato also forged a secret agreement with U.S. in 1960s, allowing U.S.’s warship carrying nuclear weapons into Japan in emergency situations. This secret deal is a violation of non-introduction principle. At the same time, China has concerns that the domestic debate and opinions favoring nuclear armament in Japan imply an intention to get rid of these constraints. On Feb.14, the Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida stated in the Diet that Japan would allow U.S. to introduce nuclear weapons into Japan during a war time.(9) Several former Prime Minister even officially or unofficially expressed their opinions favoring nuclear armament, including Nobusuke Kishi (Shinzo Abe’s maternal grandfather and prime minister from 1957 to 1960), Hayato Ikeda (1960-64), Esaku Sato (1964-72), Yasuo Fukuda (2007-08) and Taro Aso (2008-2009).(10) In that case, China suspects that Japan’s “civil nuclear programs” are a cover for nuclear weapon development, and that these nuclear materials, including plutonium and enriched uranium, work as a strategic deterrence force.

The second concern is the safety. Japan’s nuclear material stockpile experienced a large number of accidents during 1990s, including the Monju Nuclear Power Plant sodium leak and fire accident (1995), Tokaimura nuclear accidents (1997 and 1999) and Shika Criticality Event (1999)(11) – The Shika Criticality Event was covered up by the Hokuriku Electric Power Company for eight years.(12) After 2000, Japan’s nuclear power plants experienced at least four big incidents before the Fukushima Disaster in 2011. Besides, Japan acknowledged to the IAEA in 2003 that Japan “lost” 206 kg plutonium, which could make over 20 nuclear warheads.(13) All these incidents question Japan’s ability to manage the safety of its nuclear material stockpile.

The third concern is its negative implications on non-proliferation. First of all, Japan’s nuclear program will increase the difficulty of dissuading other (potential) nuclear powers. Japan is a nuclear threshold state, and its H-II launch system could be used as delivery system of nuclear warheads. In that case, Japan can manufacture its nuclear weapons quickly. If Japan decides to do so, it will trigger a nuclear arms race in East Asia by motivating North and South Korea to develop their nuclear weapons. It will also strengthen Iran’s argument that U.S. and international community are applying double standards for nuclear capabilities, and undermine the efforts to denuclearize the Middle East. Secondly, the poor management and “lost” plutonium increase the opportunities for non-state actors to obtain nuclear materials for dirty bombs. Terrorists groups such as al-Qaeda and Aum Shinrikyo have reportedly “tried to obtain radioactive materials,”(14) so the large reserve of nuclear materials in Japan creates the risk of proliferation.
Considering the long-lasting rumors about Japan’s nuclear material stockpile, it is worthwhile to speculate why China voices its opposition so fiercely at this time. The first reason is the rivalry between China and Japan. Tensions are accumulating since the boat collision incident near Senkaku Islands in 2010, and there have been no signals of improvement after China shut the door to discussion due to Prime Minister Abe’s conservative actions. After that, China makes use of every chance to establish an image of Abe and Japan’s society as conservative, militarizing and turning rightward. This plutonium issue provides new evidence for China to strengthen its argument.

The second reason is that an exacerbated U.S.-Japan relationship provides a window of opportunity for China and the U.S. to work together on Japan. Chinese experts see that conservative actions and speeches in Abe’s government are disappointing the Obama administration, so Chinese government spokesmen and experts emphasize that a conservative Japan is not only a threat to China, but also to the U.S. The nuclear material issue creates another common interest for both sides to deal with Japan.

The third is to improve its security environment on nuclear issues. China is surrounded by nuclear facilities: four nuclear states (Russia, North Korea, Pakistan and India), two nuclear threshold states (Japan and South Korea) and civilian nuclear programs (Vietnam and Indonesia). The tensions caused by China’s rise create the possibilities that these countries will strengthen or develop their strategic deterrence force. Such actions will trigger proliferation and arm races, and undermine the regional security. Therefore, by showing a strong position on Japan, China manifests its policies and determination to prevent neighboring countries from developing nuclear weapons.

1- Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China. “Foreign Ministry Spokeperson Hua Chunying’s Regular Press Conference on February 17, 2014.” Feb.17, 2014. Available at
2- Xinhua Writer Tian Dongdong. “Commentary: Tokyo owes world explanation over weapon-grade plutonium stockpile.” Xinhua News Agency. Feb.18,2014. Available at
3- Wu Jun, Sun Xiangli. “Japan accumulating nuclear material brings worries to East Asia security.” (日本累积核材料令东亚安全蒙忧) Xinhua Feb.21, 2014. Available at
4- Jia Xiudong. “Japan does not reassure the world on nuclear problem.”(日本在核问题上让世界不放心) People’s Daily (overseas version, editorial). Feb.21, 2014. Available at
5- Si Chu. “If Japan has nuclear weapons, U.S. will have more difficulties to control it.” People’s Daily. Feb.25. Available at
6- See Zhang Fengpo. “How big is Japan’s ‘nuclear’ ambition?”(日本“核”野心有多大?) PLA Daily. Feb.24. Chen Hongda, Liao Xian. “Japan’s ‘nuclear stockpile’ is not a simple issue” (日本“囤核”不简单) PLA Daily. Feb.28. Available at
7- “Japan does not reassure the world on nuclear problem.”
8- Jonathan Schell (2007). The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger. Macmillan. P.145.
9- “How big is Japan’s ‘nuclear’ ambition?”
10- Zhao Jinglun. “Why is the US asking Japan to return plutonium?” Feb.20. Available at
11- “Japan’s ‘nuclear stockpile’ is not a simple issue”
12- “Japan’s nuclear power plant experienced serious accidents. It was criticizes for covering the issue for eight years.” (日本核电站发生重大事故 隐瞒八年遭狠批) China News Service. Mar.16, 2007. Available at
13- “Japan does not reassure the world on nuclear problem.”
14- Chico Harlam. “Japan has lots of plutonium on hand, little way to use it.” Washington Post. March 27, 2012. Available at

NK Missile Should Provoke Strategic Reassesment

NK Missile Should Provoke Strategic Reassesment

12 December 2012 – Washington, DC

The North Korean missile test today was long expected, and given the suspended nature of South Korean and US diplomacy toward the DPRK, seemingly inevitable. It was illegal in the context of UN resolutions 1718 and 1874, and will provoke further sanctions, unilaterally if not by the UNSC. There are several issues that this test brings to the fore.

First, in terms of missile capability, it is an advance for the North Korean program, regardless of that program’s purpose. However, according to most experts the US mainland is still several years away from being threatened by these capabilities. Most importantly for the DPRK leadership, this new achievement helps advance a narrative of technological advancement and national modernity that is very important to their image of competence before the public and elites. The need to have a tangible symbol of commemoration for the 100th birthday of DPRK founder Kim Il Sung before the end of 2012, together with recognition of the one year anniversary of the death of Kim Jong Il, has seemed almost existential for the new leader, Kim Jung Un. A palpable sense of relief may be the most widespread emotion in the government today. Only seven months ago the North was roundly mocked for its previous failed launch, and another failure would have called its missile program’s near-term viability into question.

Secondly, in its regional political impact the missile test/satellite launch is unlikely to change calculations in Tokyo, Seoul or Beijing. If anything the post-launch atmospherics will be likely to marginally help the conservative candidates in the Japanese elections on 16 December and South Korean election on 19 December. There is little evidence the Chinese leadership harbors any meaningful divisions on the question of overall support for North Korea’s leadership, having over the past two years engineered a broader and deeper strategic, long-term economic and political embrace. The launch will certainly complicate diplomacy for the new Xi Jinping team in the short run, but it likely views the impact of a rupture in the China-North Korea relationship as far more harmful and unpredictable than the criticisms that will come from other parties and the UN Security Council if they refuse to forcefully condemn the DPRK. Regarding the seemingly successful nature of this launch, Chinese strategists had more to fear from a newly humiliated and further isolated neighbor (had the launch failed) than from the relieved – if not emboldened – regime that can celebrate this technological achievement today.

Thirdly, in terms of strategic impact on the security picture in Northeast Asia, the test is of minor consequence. The nascent capability the DPRK is building toward is useful only until it is made explicit, and then it becomes a suicide capability. There still remains the open question of what kind of deal the North would make in exchange for the things it has said it wants – a question that has not been answered with any specificity since it was last tested back in 2000. The effectiveness of the US and ROK policies of containment toward the potential threat of DPRK weapons and missile systems is no less in question today than it was yesterday. That policy has always been critically permeable, as evidenced by ongoing missile cooperation between North Korea and Iran. The North’s growing capabilities for enriching uranium also indicate that current policies to limit the North’s capabilities without engagement have been less than successful. The strategic implications of the launch are therefore to pose the question whether the US, Japan and South Korea could again – either together or individually – play a long game with the North Korea challenge, taking advantage of the significant overlap in regional strategic interests with China.

Finally, among all the new leaders moving into presidential and prime ministerial offices this Winter, only the South Korean president will have the flexibility and authority to make a play that alters this chessboard, and that might return first that government, and then others, to playing a more ambitious and realistic game. Perhaps the most interesting question – and one which we can only speculate about – is who would be more likely to have the ambition, vision, and political skill to move this perennial regional open wound toward healing and tension reduction, not to mention peace? Park Geun-hye or Moon Jae-in?

Stephen Costello