Beijing planning air defence zone in South China Sea

HONG KONG • China is preparing to establish an air defence identification zone (Adiz) in the South China Sea, two years after it announced a similar one in the East China Sea, the South China Morning Post reported.

A report in Canada-based Kanwa Defence Review said Beijing had defined the area of the Adiz based on the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Woody Island and China's seven new artificial islands in the Spratly chain, the Post said yesterday. The daily quoted a People's Liberation Army (PLA) source as saying: "If the US military keeps making provocative moves to challenge China's sovereignty in the region, it will give Beijing a good opportunity to declare an Adiz in the South China Sea."

The US has reportedly conducted at least three military missions since last October to stress its right to freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.

In a written response to the Post, China's defence ministry said it was "the right of a sovereign state" to designate an Adiz.

"Regarding when to declare such a zone, it will depend on whether China is facing security threats from the air, and what the level of the air safety threat is," the statement said.

Tensions between China and Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei over their competing claims in the South China Sea have risen since Beijing started major land reclamation work on disputed islands and reefs in the area.

The Adiz revelation came ahead of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, a security forum attended by top defence officials from various nations, including Admiral Sun Jianguo, PLA's deputy chief of general staff, and US Defence Secretary Ash Carter. Disputes in the South China Sea are expected to dominate the three-day event, which starts tomorrow.

China set up its first Adiz in the East China Sea in November 2013 to cover the Diaoyu Islands, which Japan calls the Senkakus and claims to own. The Adiz triggered a backlash from Japan, South Korea and the US.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2016, with the headline 'Beijing planning air defence zone in South China Sea'. Print Edition | Subscribe