The possibility of China’s setting up an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East Sea was mentioned by international experts at a seminar held in Vietnam’s central Da Nang City from November 17-18.
The event, themed “East Sea: Cooperation for Regional Security and Development,” entered its last day on Tuesday, with a hot issue raised: whether China will announce its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East Sea after it has already announced the same zone in the East China Sea.
Professor Robert Beckman, director of the International Law Center at the Singapore National University, pointed out that the current main concern in Southeast Asia is that China may declare an ADIZ in the East Sea.
This concern is reasonable as the tension in the dispute between China and Vietnam and that between China and the Philippines have yet to be reduced, he said.
Recent speeches by Chinese officials and commentators suggested that China may declare an ADIZ in the East Sea at an appropriate time in the future, the professor said.
China may invoke protection of its national security interest to set up an ADIZ somewhere off its south coast, stretching about 100 nautical miles from the base line in the Gulf of Tonkin, Prof. Beckman said.
If this ADIZ is extended 150 nautical miles to the south, it will cover the islands belonging to Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago that China is occupying.
If China announces that its ADIZ covers Hoang Sa, then such an announcement will cause tension again to the relations between China and Vietnam, the professor said.
And such an ADIZ move will worry ASEAN countries and will be seen as an aggressive and provocative action by China, Beckman said.
At the same time, the US and countries outside Southeast Asia will also object to such an ADIZ, considering it a threat to the maritime and aviation freedom in the East Sea, he added.
With the same view as Beckman, many other scholars at the seminar said that if China sets up such an ADIZ, it will not only violate international law but also trigger suspicions that will further complicate the East Sea situation and will even lead to conflicts.
Change of status quo violates int’l law
Dr. Nguyen Thi Lan Anh, from the Vietnam Diplomatic Academy, emphasized that the large-scale land reclamation project China has carried out on islands in the East Sea will not help China consolidate its sovereignty over those islands, pursuant to Article 121 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
China’s unilateral construction activities in Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago may constitute a violation of the UNCLOS, Dr. Anh said.
Such activities also infringe on the agreement between China and ASEAN included in the Declaration of the Conducts of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), she added.
With the same view, Professor James Charles Kraska, from the U.S. Naval War College, said that although China has occupied Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) and announced the nine-dash line to put most of the East Sea under its sovereignty, China still cannot change Vietnam’s legal sovereignty over Vietnam’s exclusive economic zones.
Meanwhile, Nong Hong, director of Research Center for Oceans Law and Policy, under NISCSS - a Chinese institute - said in her speech that countries in the East Sea should cooperate in fishing and set up a common zone for maritime exploitation.
She also said China does not agree for the dispute between China and the Philippines to be settled by an international tribunal, because this will lead to a situation in which one side wins while the other loses.