The China Syndrome

Well, the Chinese seem to be taking the name “China Sea” seriously. First came the dispute with Vietnam, the Philippines, and probably any nation with a couple of dinghies and a drunk captain over the South China Sea.

And now comes Japan:

HONG KONG — China’s Ministry of National Defense accused Japan on Thursday of airborne brinkmanship over the East China Sea, rejecting Tokyo’s account of the latest near encounters between military aircraft from the two increasingly estranged countries.

The official Chinese rejection of the Japanese version of events was predictable, but the vehement wording from Beijing showed the bitterness that has built up between the two neighbors. The Chinese defense ministry spokesman, Senior Col. Geng Yansheng, said that in two incidents on Wednesday that Japanese military aircraft flew “abnormally close” to Chinese air force planes — the opposite of the account by Japan’s Defense Ministry

“For some time, Japan has engaged in close-up tailing, monitoring and interfering with Chinese vessels and aircraft, risking the safety of the vessels and aircraft,” Colonel Geng said in a statement released on the ministry’s website. Japan’s behavior, he said, had “malign intentions and totally exposed its hypocrisy and two-facedness in relations with China.”

Ooooh, they’re “monitoring” a possibly hostile force of “vessels” and “aircraft”. Needless to say, Japan accuses China of aggression, that the surveillance planes were prop-driven…really?…and that Japan has photographic evidence that China’s planes were armed and aggressive.

This might all be as petty as the brouhaha over the South China Sea if it wasn’t for the history between the Japanese and the Chinese. Japan, you may recall, has punched above its weight several times in invading China, most recently during World War II.

And both nations are old enough that there are grudges a-plenty to go around.

Really, it would just take the wrong button punched on some console…


3 Replies to “The China Syndrome”

  1. The Chinese are behaving as we would expect any nation (including Japan,Vietnam,et al) because it is about territorial claims, mainly oil rights, and access (shipping and strategic).

    Many years ago I recall a South American country infuriating America by declaring a 200 mi territorial boundary off its ocean shore and America claiming a mere 12 mi limit was all that was acceptable. I want to say it was Venezuela. Anyway, we started sailing warships through it, declaring our outrage, and the issue disappeared from the headlines. Whether or not international treaties and laws adjusted to the situation (or the country adjusted to the treaties and laws) I do not know.

    Air traffic control extending out 200 miles or so makes sense to me, at least for commercial interests. In the age of drones and over-the-horizon air combat, maybe not so much.

  2. A little wiki-research suggests international law distinguishes between continental shelf boundaries (often up to 200 mi) and other boundaries—the concern seems to be surface navigation and control in the closer-in boundaries, and fishing, conservation and mineral rights the concern of shelf-boundaries and ocean depths. Apparently claims for greater than 200 miles can be applied for to the UN and some nations have indeed made those applications. China is not listed as one of them however.

    1. In very general terms there are two types of internationally recognized boundaries – the 12 mile limit which is territorial waters and a 200 mile exclusive economic zone. Outside territorial waters (12 miles) American ships would be asserting freedom to navigate (which all other nations would share). There are also things known as ADIZ which are air defence identification zones – these are little bit more wild and wooly. Flight control zones (I forget what the term for this really is at the moment) are different.

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