Lorenzana: Illegal to have China air defense zone in South China Sea
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday said China’s plan to set up an air defense identification zone (Adiz) over the South China Sea would be considered illegal and a violation of international laws by many countries and he hoped that Beijing would back off for the sake of peace and stability in the region.
On Wednesday, Gen. Charles Brown Jr., commander of the US Pacific Air Force, said a Chinese Adiz over the South China Sea “goes against the rules-based international order” and “impinges upon some of the international airspace.”
He pointed out that it would impact all Indo-Pacific countries.
Lorenzana on Thursday agreed with Brown, who was reacting to a June 1 report in the South China Morning Post which quoted a People’s Liberation Army insider who claimed that Chinese authorities were “waiting for the right time to announce” the air defense zone.
An Adiz is airspace over land or water in which the identification, location and control of aircraft is enforced for the national security of the country that declares it. It is normally declared over undisputed territory.
In a statement sent to reporters, Lorenzana pointed out that China would create friction with other countries if it made the move.
“An Adiz by China over the entire South China Sea would arrogate unto itself a vast sea considered to be a global commons that has been opened for millennia to all for navigation and fishing,” he said.
He said such a declaration would violate the “exclusive economic rights of littoral states over their exclusive economic zones under the Unclos (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) of which China was a signatory.”
“A lot of countries will treat this Adiz as illegal and violative of international laws,” Lorenzana said.
‘My fervent hope’
Despite such a declaration, many countries would still continue to use the South China Sea and the airspace above it and this would “further raise an already heightening tension and could result in mishaps or miscalculations at sea and in the air,” he said.
“It is my fervent hope that China would not proceed with this planned action for the continued peace and stability in the entire South China Sea,” Lorenzana said.
China’s planned Adiz over the South China Sea, which has reportedly been in the works since 2010 and introduced in 2013, would cover the disputed Pratas, Paracel and Spratly Islands.
The Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have conflicting claims over parts of the vast ocean, one of the world’s busiest sea-lanes used in trading trillions of dollars worth of goods.
Ties between the Philippines and China were strained after Manila filed a case in 2013 in the international arbitral tribunal challenging China’s expansive claims over nearly the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines won its case three years later when the tribunal ruled to invalidate China’s claims. Beijing refused to recognize the decision.
President Duterte is seen by analysts to have set aside the ruling in favor of aid and investments from the Chinese after he took office.
Despite warmer Philippine-China relations compared to the previous administration, the maritime dispute between the two countries continues to simmer. —JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE
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