Careful handling better than knee-jerks
Updated: 2013-12-06 07:19
By Chen Weihua (China Daily)
The debate following China's Nov 23 announcement of its East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone is a solemn reminder that major countries, such as China and the United States, must improve how they handle their differences.
Soon after China's announcement, the US took drastic action by sending two "unarmed" B-52 bombers from Guam into China's new ADIZ to show its defiance, although Pentagon officials also stressed that it was a routine flight arranged a long time ago.
Japan and the Republic of Korea also sent flights into the zone without reporting to the Chinese authorities. Such defiance is also meant to provoke and therefore is not conducive to solving problems.
Japan reacted because China's ADIZ overlaps with Japan's ADIZ over the disputed Diaoyu Islands. But such overlapping should not come as a surprise since most countries - including Japan - know that the islands are disputed territories claimed by both countries.
Japan has overreacted by demanding China retract the ADIZ, and led by right-wing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Japanese government forced two Japanese airlines, JAL and ANA, to reverse their original intention to file flight plans with the Chinese authorities, a move that shows it is willing to gamble with the lives of passengers.
China's foreign ministry said on Wednesday, 55 airlines from 19 countries and three regions have reported their flight plans to China. There is no doubt that more airlines will follow suit in order to reduce the risk of any misunderstanding and miscalculation in the airspace. Filing flight plans does no harm; it has only benefits.
After all, the announcement of China's ADIZ is not a declaration of sovereign airspace. So there really should not be so much fuss about it. Japan, the US and many other countries proclaimed theirs decades ago and some have expanded their zones over the years.
The initial response in some countries was so exaggerated you would think China was going to shoot down any plane flying into the ADIZ, something that China has never said it would do, and, of course, has no intention of doing.
It's just like when US President Barack Obama talked about not taking any option off the table in dealing with Iran, Syria and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, no one should see it as US' willingness to use nuclear weapons against these nations. But many people seem to harbor such thinking when explaining China's ADIZ announcement.