China Considers Establishing Air Defense Zone Over Artificial Islands

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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A Chinese admiral said Sunday that Beijing is considering the establishment of an air defense zone over areas of the South China Sea to which its claims of sovereignty remain in dispute.

In a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue conference in Singapore, Chinese Admiral Sun Jianguo informed other nations that an air defense zone should not be cause for alarm, The New York Times reports.

Air defense zones require all aircraft entering to request permission first.

“China and the Chinese military have never feared the devil or an evil force, and we are convinced by reason but not by hegemony,” Admiral Sun said on Sunday. “Don’t ever expect us to surrender to devious heresies or a mighty power. And don’t ever expect us to swallow the bitter fruits that would harm our sovereignty, security and development interests.”

Some countries, like Australia, have already responded, with Defense Minister Kevin Andrews saying that no air defense zone will dissuade Australian aircraft from flying overhead.

In an op-ed for the New York Post, Michael Auslin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argued that China’s bold moves in the South China Sea is essentially a gamble that Obama simply does not have the will to challenge “a major land and power grab.”

By constructing almost 2,000 acres of artificial landmass on top of shallow reefs, China intends to expand its reach and has already added airstrips, ports and a barracks, despite repeated claims that the islands are little more than outposts for fulfilling international obligations like maritime search and rescue. (RELATED: China Transfers Weapons To Artificial Islands, As US Demands China To STOP Building)

For the longest time, the Philippines has called attention to China’s moves, only to be met with silence from a Washington eager to please China. That tone has only recently switched, with Defense Secretary Ash Carter demanding that China immediately halt construction of artificial islands, which he repeated on Sunday. Carter also said that U.S. aircraft may choose to fly over island airspace with impunity, and U.S. ships may sail through a 12-mile zone claimed by China.

After the conference ended, Carter stopped over in Vietnam and on Monday, signed a joint vision statement, part of which includes $18 million dollars of funding for Vietnam to purchase patrol boats.

While it’s true that other nations have tried land reclamation efforts in the region, that reclamation occurred mostly before 2002. In 2002, China and other nations signed an agreement to halt plans seen as threatening.

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