South Korea Air Defense Zone Rattles China

East China SeaChina expressed “regret” Monday over South Korea’s declaration of an air defense zone overlapping Beijing’s in the latest ratcheting up of tensions over territorial disputes involving Japan, China and South Korea that the U.S. has been seeking to tamp down.

China urged Seoul to proceed “safely and cautiously” in dealing with the overlap from “South Korea’s expansion of its air defense identification zone,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei.

South Korea caught Beijing and Tokyo off guard Sunday with the announcement that Seoul’s existing air defense zone was being expanded about 150 miles to the south to include a submerged reef called Ieodo in South Korea and Suyan Rock in China.

Maj. Gen. Chang Hyok, a senior South Korean Defense Ministry official, said that in declaring the zone “our top priority is to prevent accidental military clashes in the area.”

The expansion meant that the air zones declared by South Korea, Japan and China over the East China Sea now all overlap. The Japanese and Chinese zones both include space over disputed islets called the Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China.

Unlike the air defense zone announced by China two weeks ago, the South Korean zone will not affect civilian flights.

China angered its neighbors in declaring its own zone on Nov. 23 by ordering all military and commercial flights entering the zone to file flight plans and identify themselves or face possible “emergency measures.”

The U.S. immediately signaled that it would not recognize the Chinese zone by flying two B-52 bombers based in Guam through the Chinese zone without giving notification.

The air zone disputes dominated Vice President Joe Biden’s talks last week in Japan, China and South Korea.

“China’s recent and sudden announcement of the establishment of a new air defense identification zone has, to state the obvious, caused significant apprehension in the region,” Biden told a meeting of U.S. business executives in Beijing.

“The United States has a profound stake in what happens here because we need, and we are, and we will remain a Pacific power diplomatically, economically and militarily,” Biden said.

About the Author

Richard Sisk
Richard Sisk is a reporter for He can be reached at
  • PolicyWonk

    Well China really screwed up when they announced their “air defense zone”. If they have a diplomatic strategy of any kind they’ve been unable to articulate it with any coherence. This suggests that there is no coordinated effort on the part of the Chinese government, which increases the danger something could go very wrong.

    China has a historical chip on its shoulder as a result of being exploited in the past, and the conservatives think that with China’s military build up they can start settling scores.

    I doubt they’re being realistic, unless they want to take a chance on starting a regional war that would involve Japan and S. Korea, which would require in turn the USA to live up to its treaty obligations.

    It seems that its time for China to smarten up – because the conservative faction needs to get a grip on reality before they start something they cannot control.

    • Chuck


      China is neither militarily nor economically positioned to come out of such a scuffle on top. In fact, acting now merely ensures that they cannot win this game. Why didn’t they just let the stalemate hold for another decade or two, when they might actually have the hard and soft power to win? People often talk about how China is supposed to be good at playing the long game. Apparently not.

    • oblatt2

      China plays the long game but we are masters of claiming a loss is really what we wanted all along. Looks like another win win LOL.

      China got what it wanted. Nobody is even suggesting that the ADIZ will be removed and in fact the US government is rushing around trying to get everyone not to overreact.

      • blight_

        Good point. Of course, throwing ADIZ back in their face is the only other option, other than losing face.

      • Atomic Walrus

        If everybody simply ignores China’s ADIZ, the net effect will be to deny international legitimacy to the claim and/or force China to waste resources identifying any aircraft entering the zone. ADIZ is not the same as territorial airspace. If China wants to dedicate fighters to flying out and eyeballing every airliner flying through the international airspace included in their ADIZ, let them fill their boots.

    • Mitch S.

      Makes me wonder if this isn’t a result of internal power struggles.
      Perhaps Xi trying to strengthen his standing with the military.

      I kinda like what S. Korea did. It sends China a message that this isn’t just about old grudges between China and Japan (after all Korea has some common ground with China when it comes to old scores with Japan).

      • Really?

        Really? Internal power struggles?

        You’ve got to stop reading craps out of RAND, the CFR, Foreign Affairs, the Diplomat, or other self-proclaimed political or military think-tanks.

        China’s move means only one thing: its military has become strong enough to take on the US, NATO, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan in any scale of military conflict within the first island chain.

        I’ll wager 100 bucks that the ADIZ is there to stay. China will give Japan and the US some time to make a scene and save face, but it will gradually step up enforcement. We can revisit this in 6 months to a year, and see who’s right.

    • blight_

      Way to open Pandora’s Box, amirite?

      If anything, the Asian countries could genuinely profit from a mutual security arrangement, to maintain the option of independence from the United States, Europe, Russia, and other traditional power-players. Unfortunately, they are all sour and cynical from alternating turns as victim and victimizer (though Korea has historically been the victim of either China or Japan).

    • Hopefully, a new president with some spine will start seeking economic damages on imports made from stolen technology.

    • PW …..

      Not certain the civilian side of the playpen, after years of buying off the military with more and more toys, hasn’t lost the bubble and the uniforms are a tad off of the reservation.

    • Lynn

      Let’s not forget who holds most of our debt, whereas South Korea is a beneficiary of it as well—not smart to be ticking off our largest benefactor when our economy is in shambles.

      We shouldn’t be involving ourselves in these territorial issues as we have much bigger problems here at home that must be attended to. Quite frankly I’m sick and tired of our country mucking around in everyone else’s back yard while neglecting our own. Let China, Japan and S. Korea sort it out for themselves.

      • STemplar

        The US Federal reserve is by far and away the largest holder of US debt.

        • Auyong Ah Meng


          Wonder what will happen when Taiwan too decide to expand its current ADZ to the north too over those “disputed” islands which they are also claiming…


        • Pjkace70

          To bad most of America. Is Blind to that, STemplar

        • hyper inflation

          STemplar, You don’t understand the damning implications of the statement because you don’t know what F.R. really is.

        • guest

          “The US Federal reserve is by far and away the largest holder of US debt.”


          Sounds like you are bragging about it. LOL!!!!! Really sad.

          You even had 7 or more equally clueless readers giving you a thumbs-up. Hard to blame foreigners ridiculing Americans’ lack of basic knowledge.

      • davec

        As noted below, the Fed is the largest holder of government debt. However, since a sizeable chunk of China’s investments is in U.S. debt, it too has to be careful. In addition, a major portion of their exports are to the U.S. Consequently, they cannot afford to have the U.S. economy tank, since that would damage or destroy a significant portion of their economy. And, any shooting match would probably lead to our repudiation of the debt, as well as cessation of imports. So, ironically, their holding our debt is kind of a two-edged sword.

    • Guest

      PolicyWonk, you obviously are confused about ADIZ (identification zone) and national air space.

      Did you say anything when Japan, Korea, and US created ADIZ’s? (Did you know that Japan had its own ADIZ’s?)

  • Dfens

    Remember how they promised us that by giving China “most favored nation” trade status this would make us best friends? Look at how well that is working out for us. We now have an enemy of our own making and at the same time we have emasculated out nation’s industrial might. Add to that the fact that we are in the process of emasculating our nations military might through procurement practices that are ignorant beyond belief, and we have a true recipe for disaster looming. Would we seriously go to war with China over South Korea’s claim to some uninhabited islands? Of course we wouldn’t. China will take Taiwan without ever firing a shot and we will stand by and watch. It is entirely possible they might take South Korea and Japan, but at least those two countries will fight back, for a little while. We will stand on the sidelines and wring our hands because we don’t have the stones to get involved in a real war, nor do we have the weapons.

  • Musson

    It is a mistake to think of China as a monolithic power. Instead, think of them as 8 very powerful crime families that cooperate to stay in control of the country.

    • Pjkace70

      Well Said !! ! ! And so True.

    • Chuck D

      very accurate assesment

    • Mitch S.

      I’m not that up China’s internal power structure, if you know any good articles etc you recommend please post a link(s).

    • guest

      Which eight crime families? I counted SIX only. US, UK, JAPAN, FRANCE, CANADA, SOUTH KOREA.

      • David

        Than you can’t count, because there are much more than six.

      • guest

        Add Israel and Australia.

        • Doesnt Matter

          I’m surprised that Chinese sympathizers frequent this blog.

    • sonnyandjacksdad

      Do you know the families names?

    • S Korean Won

      Can you name the 8 families?

  • PW …..

    Not certain the civilian side of the playpen, after years of buying off the military with more and more toys, hasn’t lost the bubble and the uniforms are a tad off of the reservation.

  • I think we all need an ADIZ over our homes or perhaps we should declare one for a fourth overlap in that neck of the woods or hell …. how about a worldwide US ADIZ that ranges 500 NM around every US warship.

  • Lance

    Got to love this time to tick off the Chi COms. About time we had a weaker respounce to China’s power grab.

  • Taylor

    Our Asian allies need to get their own nukes, in my opinion. If North Korea has them, our friends need to be able to defend themselves without worrying about what political group is in power here.

    • blight_

      The only player in Asia with nuclear weapons is the People’s Republic. But just as India is unlikely to invade Pakistan without risking a nuclear attack, and the DPRK and the PRC are immune to conventional attack, presumably the smaller states could guarantee their existence (in some form or another) with a nuclear weapon.

    • The radiation from “their own nukes” will have to go somewhere. With global warming not all of that stuff is going to dissipate before it either reaches Europe or America. Man can forecast weather, he can’t control it.

    • Nadnerbus

      I was under the impression that that was part of the benefit of allying with the US: Allies fall under our nuclear umbrella, helping to prevent risky and expensive nuclear arms races.

      Japan could probably make a nuke in months if they really wanted to. The easily have the technology for it.

      • B.J.

        What if for instance North Korea uses nukes for a deterrent shield while conducting a conventional invasion of the south? And that conventional invasion uses unconventional tunnels dug under South Korea all the way to Busan. Even if SK gets US nuclear umbrella, it is hardly comforting after the 1st strike from north. A small country would cease to exist.

      • Guest

        Any adult who falls for this US nuclear umbrella argument is as mentally competent as a 5-year old kid.

  • Dobdobdob

    we’ll see….
    China is still lacking in a lot of areas to start throwing punches around. They’ll probably have a decent edge when they are able to field their new semi-stealth fighter and a couple domestic carriers too.

  • Big-Dean

    iepid mspiepp li liseo manipe edkpeiwp, foa aei mappe hahahahaha ;-P

  • Dekkard

    What accounts do you refer to, China’s long-suffering is self-inflicted. You chose your path: controlled by emperors, warlords, foreign agents, commissars, and now industrial robber barons. Your water is toxic and your air brings cancer. All of this you have done to yourself. Now you involve yourself in Africa, a mistake that even America avoided. The dark continent has swallowed empires more nimble and cunning, than you. You could destroy Japan, grab Taiwan, and neuter America, but that will not alleviate your pain. Your humiliation will continue; you do not think of yourself as a free people and until you do you will always be a vassal state no matter how powerful you become.

  • STemplar

    This whole ordeal is very hamfisted and this alleged “long view” is hogwash. There’s no win here for them. Bullying everyone in the region only forces other nations to move closer and closer together. Any real military cooperation between Korea and Japan is an utter failure on China’s part.

    If they wanted to demonstrate true finesse and brain power they would have shown up in force to Japan’s calamity after the earthquake and tsunami/reactor incident with aid. They would have shown up to the Philippines after this recent typhoon.

    Thinking they are going to get themselves anywhere by bullying nations in their region is duncery. Thinking they would actually be able to individually bully nations bilaterally in these overlapping territorial disputes is linear thinking at best. It’s mostly a clear demonstration about just how inbred and unchallenged the mentality and strategy is inside the Chinese ruling elite.

    This is pure nationalistic stupidity on their part and domestic power cementing for Xi. I’m always a little shocked at the fanboys that flock here to trumpet China as anything someone should aspire to. They’re turning their own nation into a big toxic waste dump. They’ve created a demographic tsunami for themselves that hits in about 20 to 30 years. They’ve institutionalized racism and ethnic cleansing. They’re actively engaging in brinkmanship that could lead to a conflict that would be devastating for the entire world economy in the best case outcome. I really fail to see the fascination or glamour.

    • oblatt2

      Really why would China want to follow the failed policies of the US.

      US PR stunts are little match for the hard economic advantages China offers. Just look at this Hagal specifically asked Korea not to expand it’s zone and prolong the issue and the Korea told the US to go jump. So much for diplomatic influence.

    • Paulson

      STemplar, your simple-minded, misinformed, and somewhat delusional opinion, coupled with the high # of recs usually accorded to naive, uninformed comments, serve as a good contrarian indicator that you are wildly off the mark as usual.

      Don’t write about something you know nothing about.

      • SJE

        Explain where exactly he is wrong. I think “institutionalize racism” is a little harsh, but their treatment of non-Han is well known.

      • STemplar

        Or what?

      • ike

        Paulson, I concur. However, STemplar is hardly the only one who always write about things he knows nothing about. There are dozens of other misinformed, ignorant and arrogant posters. That’s why some garbage posts received 20-30 recs.

  • Zspoiler

    I wonder if they like having a taste of their own medicine. They are a large country .but do you really want to p*** off your neighbors. People hate bullys..

  • I think it’s just as likely that we’re seeing a Munich in the making. China rattles the sabres, including a number of provocative military poses and invites the allies to negotiate to preserve peace. Concessions will be made because this is likely the most pliable US administration the Chinese will see for some time, Japan and Korea are in no position to seriously resist and US manufacturing is heavily dependent on Chinese parts. It’s not an accident that this happened just after Obama caved on Syria and Iran IMO.

  • BlackOwl18E

    China is winning on the economic front, but their overall political military strategists don’t seem to think things through that well. In fact, they kinda suck.

    Good on South Korea though. They are on top of the ball and playing the chess game well so far.

  • China miscalculated on this one… Pretty stupid for them to even think no one would respond… China could never win a 3 or 4 front war…

  • oblatt2

    Most Asians see American negotiating skills as child like. Ive seen businessmen compare negotiating with Americans as similar to beating a child to death with its own candy.

    The Chinese strategy is not to directly confront the US – that is the simplistic thinking you would expect from a child. But to show that the US is irrelevant in Asia.

    The fact that the the secretary of state immediately rushed over to calm things down will register far more strongly with the Japanese and Koreans then US public announcements of undying friendship. They can see that in practical terms the US isnt the superpower anymore.

    The US wants everyone to play happy families because it wants to remain head of the household. But times are changing even some our staunchest allies are now firmly in the Chinese camp now.

    • IKnowIT


    • Brian Carr

      From an economic standpoint, I see as we eventually replaced UK as the center of the economic universe, I see China become the next economic center of the world. It may not happen for a few decades but if we dont get our fiscal house in order, and the global trade decides the US dollar is not as stable as it used to be, we may find the shift happening much sooner. I dont see why China wants to become a military superpower when it has the people, the resources in China, and stockpiled dormant mining sites around the world (read the Economist article about it), they have set the stage to have the natural resources for long-term economic dominance.

    • SJE

      “But times are changing even some our staunchest allies are now firmly in the Chinese camp now”

      Evidence? If anything, the aggressive moves by China are forcing more people into the US camp. This was apparent a few years ago, and was the basis for the “Asian pivot” in policy and military focus.

    • David

      Such as whom?

      U.S. not a super power? Actually we’re the only super power. At this point in history no other country can project military power. None. When it hits the fan nothing else matters.

      • oblatt2

        Anybody can project power unsuccessfully – for successfully projected military power we are pretty much limited to small caribbean Islands.

        • Paulson

          oblatt2 sounds quite intelligent. You sound like an idiot. It’s one thing to send the navy and marines to fight poorly equipped small countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s completely another to do the same against a well-organized large modern force.

        • blight_

          Well, the Mayaguez Incident didn’t go well either.

          The Marines can power-project onto a undefended beach just fine. They came in over the sea at Da Nang and in Somalia just fine.

    • S Korean Won

      Most Asians see Americans as immature, naive and dumb.

  • Benjamin

    The only nation that is firmly in the Chinese camp is Russia and that is there own folly. More likely to be a major war between them then between the China and US. The US may fight some small battles with China over some islands but Russia and China will fight for everything east of Moscow.

  • hibeam

    “Looks like it’s time for an apology. I will fetch the presidential knee pads”

  • SJE

    China brought this on itself.

    I has been backing a nuclear armed, aggressive and crazy North Korea since the 1950s, that lobs shells and missiles at South Korea and Japan, kidnaps their citizens etc. Its like the Chinese think SK, Japan and US wouldnt notice (“Hey, I’m just sitting on the stage! Its the puppet on my lap that is saying all the bad things”).

    The Chinese have been aggressive in expanding their territorial claims to any island, rock or reef in the neighborhood, despite other countries’ claims. They don’t want to give aid to the Phillipines because that country asserts rights to islands that are near it.

    China aggressively asserts rights to the airspace near itself, even forcing down planes that are arguably in international airspace.

    So, now the Chinese are hurt that South Korea is asserts an ADIZ. Gimme a break.

  • what goes around comes around……China reminds of what the Japanese were doing in the 30s……..

  • oblatt2

    “Had a meeting with the Chinese American ambassadors today. They offered 50 billion dollars of infrastructure development and a doubling of our local economy”

    “What did the Americans offer”

    “To protect me from the Chinese offer”


    Americas economic and military decline means that we are not the realistic alternative to China we are claiming to be.

    • Filipino

      That sounds completely stupid, you’re just another Chinese punk getting paid 2 cents per comment

  • ServingGreenTea

    I’m not sure if it’s entirely accurate to say that the new Korean ADIZ caught PRC and JPN off guard…ROK gov’t had announced publicly that they are working on a newly expanded ADIZ after the PRC announcement. Media reports indicated that ROK consulted with Biden before the announcement.

  • jessmo

    Really? we cant project power? even with 9 CARRIERS AND 9 GATOR BOATS?
    Do you think, you may be trying to hard? When the Chinese can blocade both coasts call me ok.

    • orly?


  • “safely and cautiously” China and their words… I have to laugh… They think because they have lives to waste, they can bully whomever… I’d call their bluff and say, bring it… What are they going to do, fight multiple countries that lay claim? They’d loose face real quick…

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