China’s decision to establish an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) that encompasses its disputed islands with Japan is yet another attempt to expand its territorial claims by presenting neighboring countries with a fait accompli. These power plays aim to augment China’s regional position over time without provoking a major military confrontation or countervailing coalition. But in this case Beijing may have overreached and scored an own goal.
Over the past few months, China has engaged in a sustained diplomatic campaign to exploit tensions between Seoul and Tokyo. As part of this effort, Beijing has deftly used its influence over North Korea as leverage to remind South Koreans that only China might be able to induce Pyongyang to soften its threatening policies. Yet, the ADIZ declared by China on Nov. 23 is so large that it encompasses several important South Korean national territories, triggering sharp rebukes from South Korean bloggers and others not seen in Seoul for several years.
China’s Ministry of Defense has decreed that any aircraft entering the declared zone must report its nationality and flight plan as well as remain in radio contact with the Ministry. In addition to covering the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, which China claims as the Diaoyu Islands, the ADIZ encompasses Leodo Reef, which is situated about 90 miles off the southern coast of South Korea’s Jeju Island and is administered by Seoul. China and South Korea have an ongoing territorial dispute over Leodo, which falls within the declared Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of both Beijing and Seoul. China’s new ADIZ also overlaps with South Korea’s existing ADIZ.