Originally published in The Diplomat
In responding to the ADIZ, the U.S. needs to consider carefully its position on China as a rising power.
Practically all of the scores of articles that have been published since China announced its new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) have focused on China’s moves and on how the United States and its allies – Japan in particular – have responded and should respond. Analysts have examined China’s motives, seeking to determine whether the ADIZ is defensive, meant to protect China’s sovereignty and security; offensive, meant to prepare for a land grab; a reaction meant to indicate displeasure with Japan’s recent threat to shoot down unmanned aircraft in Japanese airspace; or meant to test U.S. resolve now that it has come to be viewed as having allowed other nations to cross one red line after another. Analysts of the U.S. response have noted signs of weakness in Washington’s instructions that civilian airlines should abide by China’s new rules, and they fear that accidental clashes between U.S. military planes engaged in overflights and the Chinese fighters that shadow them may lead to a shoot-out. Still other articles examined the side effects of China’s ADIZ on Japan, which was moving away from its pacifist orientation even before this recent development.
All of these rightful concerns deal with the immediate situation. The time has now come to also explore how to address the underlying conflict on two levels: that of the status of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and that of China’s rising power and regional role. Unless this is done, the U.S. is limiting itself to dealing with symptoms while ignoring the underlying lingering tensions.
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