The New York Times reports that the Obama administration has asked that American commercial airlines obey the wishes of China and submit notification of flights into their airspace in advance. The move comes as the United States finds itself drawn into the midst of mounting tension between Japan and China over the control of uninhabited islands in the East Sea.
China had scrambled jets after planes from Japan and the United States entered the disputed flight zone. This lead to concern over crowded airspace causing collisions. Allowing airlines to announce their presence ahead of time would go towards solving that problem.
Breaking News: U.S. Advises American Commercial Airlines to Obey China’s Flight Rules http://t.co/qSTTslkmVF
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 30, 2013
Less easy to solve is the standoff between China and Japan, the latter of whom is a direct ally with United States. The US shares a mutual defense treaty which covers the islands in question. What this means is that should matters escalate, the Obama Administration is treaty-bound to act on behalf of Japan.
On the one side is China, under President Xi Jinping. Jinping's declaration of an "air defense identification zone" has rubbed not only Japan the wrong way, as the zone stretches into South Korean waters. The act is feared by some to be a step in the direction of inevitable military actions should the aggressive nature of China spiral out of control. This could not only impact relations within the region, but also have a negative impact on a global economy still climbing out of a devastating recession.
On the other side is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, whose new nationalism stance some compare to the imperialist beliefs of Japan during WWII. It may be old wounds on both sides driving the exercise in blatant territorial posturing. After all, the modern trade relationship between China and Japan resulted in hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue last year. It is literally more beneficial to be friends than foes.
As the Obama administration and the world continues to monitor the situation, only time will tell whether this is just the latest in mental war games played between the two powerful nations or the beginning of something far worse.
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