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South China Sea: Beijing May Impose Air Defense Zone, Manila Warns

Beijing’s next move in the South China Sea could be to establish an air defense identification zone, unless its test flights to a man-made island elicit some pushback, the Philippines’ top diplomat said on Thursday.

China last weekend landed a plane at an airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands. The runway is on one of seven islets created out of reclaimed land in the disputed area. Chinese state news agency Xinhua on Wednesday reported two additional landings by civilian airliners.

Vietnam, which claims Fiery Cross Reef as part of its territory, condemned Beijing’s actions as a violation of its sovereignty.

The Philippines is “very concerned” about the flights, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario told a joint news conference with his British counterpart, Philip Hammond.

“If this is to happen and if this is not challenged, we will have a situation where China will take a position that [an] ADIZ could be imposed,” del Rosario said, noting the possibility of either a “de facto” or official zone. “This will be deemed unacceptable to us,” he added.

The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all have claims in the South China Sea.

China insists it has “indisputable” sovereignty over much of the sea, and officials have previously said an ADIZ could be set up if Beijing deems it necessary. In 2013, it established an ADIZ over the East China Sea; Japan and the U.S. have refused to recognize the zone.

Hammond, who stopped in Manila during a tour of East Asia, said the U.K. is not taking sides but urged claimants not to escalate tensions.

“We also have a clear position on freedom of navigation and overflight,” he said, calling those rights “non-negotiable.”


Courtesy of Nikkei Asian Review

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