U.S. demands that China rescind its new air defense zone — or does it?

posted at 5:21 pm on December 3, 2013 by Allahpundit

Via Walter Russell Mead. If you’re not following this story yet, this’ll catch you up. Two levels of Obama strategic fog here. First, is the U.S. calling on China to drop the new ADIZ it declared over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands? And second, is the U.S. calling on American commercial airlines to follow China’s rules when inside the zone?

The answer to question number one is … maybe.

The explicit request for China to “rescind” threats against unannounced aircraft passing over a chain of islands in the East China sea was made by the US just hours after Biden landed in Tokyo ahead of a six-day trip to Japan, China and South Korea.

“The fact that China’s announcement has caused confusion and increased the risk of accidents only further underscores the validity of concerns and the need for China to rescind the procedures,” said Jen Psaki, the chief spokesperson for the State Department.

Ah, so we are demanding that they rescind the zone. A bold, risky move by O given that that’s bound to increase tension with China, but it’ll reassure Japan that we’re firmly on their side. But wait:

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. delivered a carefully calibrated show of support for Japan on Tuesday, expressing deep concerns about China’s move to control airspace over disputed islands in the East China Sea, but stopping short of a demand that Beijing reverse itself

[W]ith China unlikely to rescind a move so laden with nationalistic overtones, the vice president’s focus appeared to be less on rolling back the defense zone than on neutralizing its impact by persuading the Chinese authorities to stop scrambling fighter jets or otherwise disrupting the busy air corridors between Japan and China.

So we’re … not demanding that they rescind the zone, exactly, we’re just asking them not to enforce it by sending up warplanes to “escort” visitors, which amounts to nearly the same thing. The Chinese government gets to keep the zone formally in place, satisfying the nationalists at home, and the rest of the region gets to continue to fly over the islands unhindered. That’s one way to de-escalate — China, in fact, now says that the new zone “will not affect the freedom of overflight” — but Japan might worry that even a pro forma American concession to Chinese expansionism sets a worrisome precedent.

But wait (again). There’s more to the zone than jets being scrambled. China wants aircraft flying over the islands to radio Chinese authorities with identifying information about the flight. Complying with that rule would also be a nod towards Chinese dominion over the islands, which is why Japan told its own commercial airlines to ignore ite. That’s risky too in that it increases the chance of a fatal miscommunication with Chinese warplanes in the area, but that’s the price Japan is willing to pay to assert itself. How about the U.S., though? The Pentagon’s already sent two B-52s through the zone unannounced, just so that China understands we don’t accept their claim to the airspace. Does the White House also want American commercial airlines to follow Japan’s lead and defy China, or does it prefer the “better safe than sorry” approach? The answer:

Even as China scrambled fighter jets to enforce its newly declared air defense zone, the Obama administration said on Friday that it was advising American commercial airlines to comply with China’s demands to be notified in advance of flights through the area…

The American decision drew criticism from some quarters. Stephen Yates, a former Asia adviser to Dick Cheney when he was vice president, said it was “a bad move” that would undercut allies in the region that take a different stance.

So that’s Obama’s compromise. U.S. military planes will defy China to show Japan we’re a loyal ally but U.S. commercial planes will bow to China, partly to let the government save face and partly to make sure that there are no incidents between the Chinese air force and defenseless American jumbo jets. Some Japanese analysts are unhappy about our de facto recognition of China’s claim to the airspace — “I was taken aback when I heard this” — but now that the FAA has spoken, American airlines are bound by its order. They must and will identify themselves to China while within the new ADIZ.

Or will they?

That makes it sound like the FAA is on the verge of reversing itself and declaring that commercial airliners need not comply with China’s rules, but I don’t see anything on the wires about it yet. And so the mystery deepens: Is all of the ambiguity the product of incompetence and miscommunication, i.e. “Smart Power” in action, or is this a case of O dithering and changing his mind as he comes under pressure from Japan and China in reaction to each other? Stay tuned.


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But did he actually say “if you like your air defense zone you can keep your air defense zone”?

dentarthurdent on December 3, 2013 at 5:23 PM

Bishop!

M240H on December 3, 2013 at 5:24 PM

crap

M240H on December 3, 2013 at 5:24 PM

On confusion about guidance to commercial airlines, FAA was lead & following standard procedure, not making policy acc to Sr Admin Sourc

Oh look…its the “I didn’t know so its not my fault” defense again. I’m sure he’ll get to the bottom of this and take action to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

BobMbx on December 3, 2013 at 5:26 PM

The Spine of Steel emerges again; Dog Eater is like Wolverine but wearing mom jeans and a purple bike helmet. He’s just like Wolverine though.

Bishop on December 3, 2013 at 5:26 PM

Bishop!

M240H on December 3, 2013 at 5:24 PM
crap

M240H on December 3, 2013 at 5:24 PM

My donkey took your bishop – check….
;)

dentarthurdent on December 3, 2013 at 5:27 PM

Given Obama and Kerry’s negotiating skills and backbone, my guess is by the time this is over China will have air rights to fly their military jets over Pearl Harbor.

jon1979 on December 3, 2013 at 5:34 PM

Obama, the Sid Philips of world leaders.

BobMbx on December 3, 2013 at 5:35 PM

I get the sense AP has never even heard of Zhuge Liang

DarkCurrent on December 3, 2013 at 5:35 PM

Is all of the ambiguity the product of incompetence and miscommunication, i.e. “Smart Power” in action, or is this a case of O dithering and changing his mind as he comes under pressure from Japan and China in reaction to each other? Stay tuned.

It’s more a matter of no one being in charge.

Doomberg on December 3, 2013 at 5:36 PM

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. delivered a carefully calibrated show of support for Japan

Biden has also “delivered a carefully calibrated show of support for” China’s brutal one-child policy as well as for Saudi Arabia’s ban on female drivers. So he’s for everybody & everything.

itsnotaboutme on December 3, 2013 at 5:38 PM

Given Obama and Kerry’s negotiating skills and backbone, my guess is by the time this is over China will have air rights to fly their military jets over Pearl Harbor.

jon1979 on December 3, 2013 at 5:34 PM

If we just Germany China the Sudetenland Japan, we will have peace in our day.

Oil Can on December 3, 2013 at 5:39 PM

The Chinese also have a No Freedom Zone in the north where the gulags are located, and a No Women Zone pretty much everywhere according to the latest demographic studies.

Bishop on December 3, 2013 at 5:42 PM

Given Obama and Kerry’s negotiating skills and backbone, my guess is by the time this is over China will have air rights to fly their military jets over Pearl Harbor.

jon1979 on December 3, 2013 at 5:34 PM

Isn’t that in Asia?
I think China already owns it.

dentarthurdent on December 3, 2013 at 5:44 PM

The Chinese also have a No Freedom Zone in the north where the gulags are located, and a No Women Zone pretty much everywhere according to the latest demographic studies.

Bishop on December 3, 2013 at 5:42 PM

My lying eyes…

DarkCurrent on December 3, 2013 at 5:48 PM

A bold, risky move by O given that that’s bound to increase tension with China, but it’ll reassure Japan that we’re firmly on their side.

Well, I don’t know about that. Obama has proven that he doesn’t back up anything he says. I don’t see why Japan should feel reassured or why China should feel pressure to reverse themselves.

aryeung on December 3, 2013 at 5:52 PM

Is all of the ambiguity the product of incompetence and miscommunication, i.e. “Smart Power” in action, or is this a case of O dithering and changing his mind as he comes under pressure from Japan and China in reaction to each other?

Any reason this was offered as a binary choice? More likely this is another of The One’s “All Of The Above” strategies.

Onus on December 3, 2013 at 5:53 PM

I think there’s a No Oxygen Zone in Beijing too, and Harbin is intent on copying it.

Bishop on December 3, 2013 at 5:54 PM

Well I’m glad that King Barack the Magnificent made all of that PERFECTLY CLEAR!

GarandFan on December 3, 2013 at 5:59 PM

I think there’s a No Oxygen Zone in Beijing too, and Harbin is intent on copying it.

Bishop on December 3, 2013 at 5:54 PM

If you’d ever seen those northern girls you’d understand why oxygen shouldn’t be allowed anywhere nearby

DarkCurrent on December 3, 2013 at 6:01 PM

China also has a No Unsanctioned Christian Church Zone.

Bishop on December 3, 2013 at 6:04 PM

this is the 0bama version of what arafat would do when giving a speech in english and appearing moderate and then giving speeches in arabic calling for extermination of the jews. keep spreading different stories and no one will ever catch up.

chasdal on December 3, 2013 at 6:04 PM

If you’d ever seen those northern girls you’d understand why oxygen shouldn’t be allowed anywhere nearby

DarkCurrent on December 3, 2013 at 6:01 PM

Maybe the Gulags could open an Ugly Chicks facility.

Bishop on December 3, 2013 at 6:05 PM

Chinese Secretary: Hello?
Obama: Yes I’d like to speak to President Xi about the air defense zone.
Chinese Secretary: One moment please.
Xi: Yes Mr. President?
Obama: Affordable Care Act. Quality affordable healthcare. Oh, and the middle class.
[click]
[dialtone]
[Obama to Kerry in the Oval Office: Now THAT'S the kind of "Smart Power" I'm talking about!]

Xi: ??

Onus on December 3, 2013 at 6:05 PM

China also has a No Unsanctioned Christian Church Zone.

Bishop on December 3, 2013 at 6:04 PM

The Bishop Exclusion Zone

DarkCurrent on December 3, 2013 at 6:08 PM

Maybe the Gulags could open an Ugly Chicks facility.

Bishop on December 3, 2013 at 6:05 PM

That’s Minnesota

DarkCurrent on December 3, 2013 at 6:09 PM

“Li, yeah Hi Li, listen, I was wondering, we need to bail out this Obamacare thing I got going on over here, any chance you’d be willing to extend your ADIZ to cover Guam and Hawaii too?”

-O’Bozo I

WryTrvllr on December 3, 2013 at 6:09 PM

Obama: Affordable Care Act. Quality affordable healthcare. Oh, and the middle class.
[click]
[dialtone]
[Obama to Kerry in the Oval Office: Now THAT'S the kind of "Smart Power" I'm talking about!]

Xi: ??

Onus on December 3, 2013 at 6:05 PM

Hahaha. Funny and true.

aryeung on December 3, 2013 at 6:12 PM

No but seriously, in view of the way their pilot’s fly (remember wong wei?) WOULDN’T you WANT as much communication going on as possible?

WryTrvllr on December 3, 2013 at 6:14 PM

That’s Minnesota

DarkCurrent on December 3, 2013 at 6:09 PM

Explains the barbed wire and AK-toting guards, I KNEW something was up.

Bishop on December 3, 2013 at 6:27 PM

Biden’s staff is looking for a stirring speech by a past British politician that is close enough on point that he can read it to the Chinese as his own.

Mason on December 3, 2013 at 7:14 PM

This is why this situation will continue to get more dangerous. Obama sends so many mixed signals himself, along with his confused and leaderless administration, that is more likely that was war with China will take place, not less.

At some point the U.S. is going to have to stand up to China and be firm, or else the Chinese may foolishly believe American will not get involved in a war. Obama is weak, but even he would have no choice to get this U.S. involved once the missiles start flying. It then will be up to our military to make for Onama’s dithering.

William Eaton on December 3, 2013 at 7:56 PM

Explains the barbed wire and AK-toting guards, I KNEW something was up.

Bishop on December 3, 2013 at 6:27 PM

Heh

DarkCurrent on December 4, 2013 at 8:49 AM