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Inside the Ring: U.S., China in war of words over South China Sea air zone
China watchers say the administration’s pushback against China is probably too little, too late, as China reportedly is making legal preparations for the new air defense zone over the South China Sea.
Administration political messaging has been confused, vacillating between statements of U.S. neutrality in maritime disputes and mild statements of support for regional friends and allies, analysts say.
In an apparent attempt to remedy the problem, senior military leaders and White House and State Department officials in recent days issued relatively tough warnings to Beijing not to impose an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the contested South China Sea.
China heightened tensions in the region late last year by imposing an ADIZ over the East China Sea, including waters off Japan’s Senkaku islands that China claims as its territory. Japan, South Korea and the United States said they will ignore China’s claims over the sea.
Recently, U.S. intelligence agencies warned that China appears to be readying another zone over the South China Sea, a move that is expected to set off further confrontations with Southeast Asian states including Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia, which use the waters for fishing and are eyeing undersea oil and gas deposits.
However, Ms. Hua in a briefing for reporters in Beijing did not deny plans are underway for a South China Sea ADIZ. She suggested that the current security environment did not warrant it.
Adm. Harris criticized China’s November imposition of the East China Sea zone. “Our criticism  is less about its right to do so, but rather how they did it, in a unilateral attempt to change the status quo,” the four-star admiral said at a conference. “I also have concerns about the aggressive growth of the Chinese military [and] their lack of transparency.”
U.S. officials said a Chinese amphibious ship sailed within 100 yards of the Cowpens and stopped, resulting in a near-collision on Dec. 5.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
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- Inside the Ring: U.S., China in war of words over South China Sea air zone
- Inside the Ring: China military on the rails
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