Tensions in the Western Pacific are again increasing following reports that Beijing will soon announce they will soon declare another air defense identification zone (ADIZ), this time over the disputed Paracel and Spratly Islands located in the South China Sea.
As previously reported by Threat Journal on multiple occasions, China is increasingly flexing it’s rapidly growing military muscle by staking larger and larger territorial claims in the waters off the country’s sizable East Coast.
In January, China implemented a new law ordering that vessels obtain permission from Chinese authorities before fishing or surveying in two thirds of the 1.5 million square mile South China Sea. The fishing grounds are used by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and several other countries in the region. The Philippines and Vietnam condemned the move, with the U.S. calling the new restrictions “provocative and potentially dangerous.”
Last November China declared an air defense identification zone over a large portion of the East China Sea which included the Japanese Senkaku Islands that Beijing claims as its own.
In May of last year, China began demanding sovereignty over the southern Japanese Ryukyu Islands, of which Okinawa is the largest and their obvious intended target.
In an article appearing in The People’s Daily, the country’s most-read newspaper, the authors argued that the Ryukyu were a vassal state of China before being annexed by Japan at the end of the 19th century, and that Tokyo’s defeat in World War II should have prompted the return of the islands to Beijing.
China’s foreign ministry endorsed the article, saying that “unresolved problems relating to the Ryukyu Islands have reached the time for reconsideration.”
China’s recent territorial moves are not simply to establish sovereignty over the rich fishing grounds and sizable untapped reserves of oil and natural gas in the area. As stated last year by Sumihiko Kawamura, a former rear admiral and commander of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force’s antisubmarine air wing, Beijing is trying to turn the South China Sea into “a safe haven” for its nuclear-powered submarines, which are armed with ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States. These missile submarines deploy from bases on the mainland coast, as well as from locations on Hainan Island.