Citing confidential documents that they recently acquired, a leading Japanese newspaper has published a news report saying that Chinese military officials had informed a Japanese government delegation about its plans to put up an expanded air defense zone as far back as 2010.
According to the report, senior officers of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) met informally with a delegation of Japanese government officials and informed them of China‘s plan to put up an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) that covered the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.
The documents – minutes of the informal meeting between the PLA officers and Japanese government officials at the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies in Beijing on May 14-15, 2010 – show that China had already established its ADIZ but had not made it public yet. The report says that upon checking the details of the minutes of that meeting, the area of the zone presented to the Japanese officials is almost identical to the one that was recently announced by the Chinese government in November of 2013.
The more significant revelation, we think, from these documents is that a Chinese navy commodore took the time to explain that the ADIZ it was claiming roughly matched what China claimed as its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, which is one logical way of defining a sovereign nation’s ocean borders. According to the minutes of the meeting, the Chinese military official clearly explained that the Senkakus were inside this zone. Furthermore, the documents show that the Chinese were already pushing for some sort of cooperation between the two nations, with the PLAN saying that the Chinese and Japanese ADIZ “overlap by about 100 nautical miles,” or 185 kilometers, and put out suggestions saying that the Chinese air force and Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force needed to work out rules to prevent accidental clashes in the overlapping airspace.
These revelations indicate that China had been doing groundwork for the declaration of the ADIZ at least three and a half years before what looked like a surprise announcement in November. The stance of Japan regarding the Senkakus has been unchanged for some time now, where Tokyo continues to claim that there is no territorial dispute at all because the Senkakus are controlled by Japan. These documents show that there already was a question put out by China as far back as 2010. The said documents point to a brigadier general with the PLA’s Academy of Military Science – China’s highest-level military research institute – who asked the Japanese officials, “What shall we do about China’s and Japan’s overlapping ADIZ?”, going on to make the same proposal of cooperation and discussion as the PLAN commodore. It would seem now that the ball is in Japan’s court, and it would be interesting to see what comes out of this situation.