Friday, December 20, 2013

First East, Now South?

With China's establishment of an ADIZ over parts of the East China Sea, many in the region are worried that China will soon seek to create a similar defense zone in the South China Sea in a move to assert its control over the currently disputed islands.  In a recent meeting with ASEAN in Tokyo, Japan asserted a position of leadership seeking to create an ASEAN-Japan coalition in order to contain China's expanding influence and regional authority.

In a speech in Manila earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirmed the United States' policy of not recognizing China's East China Sea ADIZ (although, it should be noted that US commercial airlines do, in fact, abide by the ADIZ regulations).  In fact, Kerry's trip to Vietnam and the Philippines were in response to these new prospects of a Chinese ADIZ in the South China Sea, even though Beijing has not confirmed or openly pursued any such plans.  It appears that the United States is also looking for a strong regional coalition to contain China.  The US recently gave $4 million in security aid to the Philippines and $3.3 million to other Southeast Asian states.

Secretary Kerry speaking in Manila on Dec 17
This prospect of another Chinese ADIZ will force the United States to consider how it is going to deal with this rising power, an issue with which it has not yet fully dealt.  The rise of China is often considered purely economical, and little thought has been given to the possibility of the use of force in China's quest for regional expansion.  China's behavior in the conflicts in the South and East China Seas provides a perfect example of its mentality towards regional territorial conflict.  If China has taken measures such as the establishment of the ADIZ in the East China Sea, it is likely that it would pursue similar policy in the South China Sea.  As the South China Sea conflict involves many more actors, the push back against such an ADIZ would be much more severe.

Secretary Kerry's increased interest in these territorial disputes indicates the increased likelihood of US involvement in easing regional tensions.  Since some argue that the US has not be consistent in its approach to Chinese expansion (particularly in dealing with the East China Sea ADIZ), the possibility of similar Chinese policy in the South China Sea gives the United States an opportunity to clarify its position on Chinese expansion and to formulate a coherent policy to protect its allies in the region.

No comments: