Chinese air zone is top PH concern | Global News

Chinese air zone is top PH concern

A Chinese air defense identification zone over artificial islands that Beijing is building in the South China Sea will be a “serious cause for concern” for the Philippines, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Monday.

China has not yet declared an air defense zone, but a declaration is seen as likely as Beijing has begun challenging foreign military and commercial aircraft flying over the artificial islands it is building in the Spratly archipelago.

On April 20, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel fired an illumination round at a Philippine Navy surveillance plane flying over Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island in the Spratlys and radioed the pilots, warning them that they were flying through Chinese airspace.


The pilots ignored the Chinese warning and went on with their mission, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.


On May 20, the Chinese Navy challenged a US Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane flying over Philippine-claimed Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef) with a CNN news crew on board, warning the pilots that they were flying through Chinese airspace and telling them to go away.

The American pilots radioed back that they were flying through international airspace.

Serious concern

The Chinese did not press the challenge, but once the military facilities that China is building on the artificial islands are ready, Beijing could declare an air defense zone and scramble planes to shoo away foreign aircraft from the area.

Asked on Monday how the government was preparing for such a declaration by China, Assistant Secretary Charles Jose, spokesman for the DFA, said the question was for the military to answer.

Jose said China had not yet declared an air defense zone in the South China Sea, but if it did it would be a “serious cause for concern” for the Philippines.


The Philippines has no fighter jets to protect its patrol planes and civilian aircraft ferrying supplies to the islands it occupies in the heavily disputed Spratly islands.

It is looking to its treaty ally, the United States, for support in protecting its interest in the Spratlys, parts of which are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan in contention with China, which claims all of the archipelago.

The United States has vowed to keep up air and sea patrols in the South China Sea and demanded an immediate and lasting halt to China’s massive land reclamation in the Spratlys, which, it says, is undermining peace and stability in the region.


US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, speaking at an Asia-Pacific security summit in Singapore on Saturday, said Beijing’s behavior in the South China Sea was “out of step” with international norms.

Carter also expressed the United States’ opposition to “further militarization of disputed features” in the Spratlys, referring to the discovery several weeks ago of artillery vehicles on Philippine-claimed Kagitingan Reef and Burgos Reef (one of two in the Gaven Reefs).

The artillery vehicles have been removed, but the discovery showed that China can use the artificial islands it is building in the Spratlys for military purposes.

China rejected the US demand for an immediate halt to its land reclamation in the disputed waters, insisting it had undisputed sovereignty over nearly all the South China Sea, where islands, atolls and reefs are believed to be sitting atop vast oil and gas reserves.


Commenting on China’s rejection of the US demand, Jose said the DFA was reiterating its April 13 statement opposing Beijing’s land reclamation in the South China Sea.

In that statement, the Philippines described as “unacceptable” China’s assurance that its land reclamation was not causing damage to the environment in the Spratly archipelago.

The DFA cited a United Nations study that found that Beijing’s land reclamation work had damaged 117 hectares of coral reef costing an estimated $100 million.

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Asked about the discovery of weapons on Kagitingan and Burgos reefs, Jose said the DFA was still verifying the reports.–With wire reports

TAGS: air defense zone, China, concern, Philippines, Spratlys, territorial dispute

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