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.

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