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Soothing tensions over China’s ADIZ

13 Feb Soothing tensions over China’s ADIZ

Tensions have flared up again between the US and China over the latter’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea. These tensions could dampen US Secretary of State John Kerry’s upcoming talks with China over the air defence zone during his five-day Asia trip, which starts today. Mr Kerry is scheduled to visit China, South Korea, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.

Channel NewsAsia interviewed SIIA Chairman Simon Tay on his views about recent tensions over the East China Sea. Here is an excerpt of the interview which airs next Thursday, 20 February, on Channel NewsAsia’s INSIGHT at 8pm.

Q: What would the US do if conflict erupts in the region over the ADIZ?

Simon Tay: It depends on whether it will be political or armed conflict. If there is armed conflict, the US have made it increasingly clear that their treaty alliance with Japan requires them to come to Japan’s side if there were an armed clash over the Senkaku islands. Of course, the Americans hope that this does not happen. They have such a complex interdependence with China, and there are so many issues on the table between these two great powers. Why would they let the tail wag the dog?

Q: How does the ADIZ affect the US pivot to Asia?

Simon Tay: The dilemma of the US presence and pivot to Asia declared by President Obama is that it wants to have a full and rounded engagement – political, military, economic, and deeply social and cultural. However, America’s strength has always been military. The danger overall, is that the ADIZ will over-focus our attention on the military aspect, while other areas such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, languishes, and other fronts of engagement that America has with Asia in terms of partnership, are neglected. So instead of having a positive discussion about where we can cooperate and an honest discussion about where we have differences, we are only going to discuss our differences. This is going to change the tenor of dialogue between America, China and the rest of us in Asia.

Q: Will escalating tensions over the ADIZ jeopardise the growing cooperation between China and the US?

Simon Tay: I think a lot depends on how the US views our region. At the top of Washington DC’s Asian agenda would be to try to get some form of reconciliation between South Korea and Japan. Second, to continue to deepen its own relationship with ASEAN, and third, to manage this issue. I do not think any of us, including the US, will be able to resolve the deep underlying tensions between China and Japan on the political and military fronts. It can be managed if we all come together, but it cannot really be resolved.