First China declared a new air defense zone over island territories that are the subject of an ownership dispute with Japan. Then, the United States flew two B-52 bombers into the newly declared defense zone, in apparent defiance of China’s claim to air space. And now, on Thursday, South Korea and Japan did the same.
The two U.S.-allied nations sent flights directly into the midst of China’s designated off-limits zone on Thursday, outright thumbing noses at Beijing’s attempt to seize authority, The Associated Press reported. China, meanwhile, has yet to respond to either flight — from the United States, and from South Korea and Japan.
Still, it’s perceived on the international stage as an embarrassment to Beijing. Even China’s state-run television is suggesting that the nation may have overplayed its hand.
“Beijing needs to reform its information release mechanism to win the psychological battles waged by Washington and Tokyo,” said the Global Times, a tabloid published by the Communist Party’s newspaper, the People’s Daily.
Most military analysts don’t think the defense zone declaration or the subsequent airplane encroachments will lead to escalating military activity. Tensions did rise after Beijing’s initial announcement, but even then, analysts saw the designation as more a long-term strategy for China to grab the disputed East China Sea property, than an act of war.
South Korea military spokesmen said the planes were flown into the zoned-off space without first alerting China, AP reported. Japan officials said they, too, have continued to fly into the zone without giving notice to China. But at least one expert in international affairs thinks the unchallenged flyovers may soon end.
“With regard to activity within the zone, nothing will happen — for a while,” said June Teufel Dreyer, a China expert at the University of Miami, in the AP report. “Then the zone will become gradually enforced more strictly. The Japanese will continue to protest, but not much more, to challenge it.”