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Issue #1622      December 11, 2013

Sycophant Australia loses respect

On November 23, the People’s Republic of China announced the setting up of an air defence identification zone off its east coast over the East China Sea. A spokesperson for the Defence Ministry, Yan Yujun told media that the government had “followed common international practices in the establishment of the zone, with aims of protecting its state sovereignty and territorial and airspace security, and maintaining flying orders.”

Over 20 countries, including Australia, the US, Japan and South Korea have established such zones. As Yan pointed out, the aim of the East China Sea Air Defence Identification Zone is to guard against potential air threats. “This airspace, demarcated outside the territorial airspace, allows a country to identify, monitor, control and dispose of entering aircraft. It sets aside time for early warning and helps defend the country’s airspace,” Yan said. “It is a necessary measure in China’s exercise of self-defence rights. It has no particular target and will not affect the freedom of flight in relevant airspace.”

Japan has several zones, including one that was expanded westward as recently as 2010. As could be expected, Japan raised strong objections to China’s zone as it includes the airspace over the Diaoyu Islands/Senkaku Islands which is also covered by Japan’s zone. The islands are a source of ongoing tension with both China and Japan claiming ownership. US commercial airlines have respected the zone and say they are complying with the notification requirements, but the US administration is a different story.

It refuses to recognise the zone and strongly objects to China taking measures to defend its own territory. In a move aimed at heightening tensions, the US Airforce provocatively flew two B-52 bombers in the zone without notifying China and has warned there will be more such flights. South Korea has sought high level strategic discussions with the US and China. The US is clearly using it to heighten tensions in the region.

But the US administration is not alone in attempting to throw its weight around. One of the strongest reactions was from Australia. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, without an ounce of diplomacy issued a stern statement. In it she said, “Australia has made clear its opposition to any coercive or unilateral actions to change the status quo in the East China Sea. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade yesterday called in China’s Ambassador to convey the Australian government’s concerns and to seek an explanation of China’s intentions.”

She clearly does not understand or is unwilling to acknowledge that the declaration of an air defence identification zone is not the same as a claim to territory – such zones extend beyond territorial waters so as to provide authorities with ample warning of approaching aircraft. They do not affect territorial status of the land or seas below them.

China responded by calling in Australia’s chargé d’affaires to express “strong dissatisfaction” with Bishop’s comments. “The Chinese side pointed out that it is totally wrong for the Australian side to point the finger at China’s setting up the air defence identification zone in the East China Sea,” an official from the Ministry said. “China does not accept it and urges the Australian side to correct its mistakes so as to prevent harming China-Australian co-operative relations.”

China has good reason be taking measures to strengthen its defence with the massive build-up of the US military in the region – part of the US’s “pivot” on the region and heightening of war preparations. Australia is complicit with the expansion of US bases, their transformation into a launching pad for war and the permanent stationing of US marines near Darwin. It is no secret that the Defence Signals Directorate monitors the Asia-Pacific region for the US.

Australian governments like to boast that Australia “punches above its weight” in international affairs.

But that is not how all of our neighbours see it, especially since the revelations of Australia’s spying on its friends in the region. Zhu Feng, Professor of international relations at Peking University, recently said that the spying revelations “badly undermine Chinese respect” for Australia. “Australia follows the US without principle and unconditionally”. Australia’s blind subservience to US military and intelligence agencies is only harming Australia’s security, in both military and economic terms. China is increasingly asserting itself in international relations and is clearly prepared to do what it sees as necessary to defend itself in the face of an hegemonic and aggressive power. Imagine if China based its war ships off the coast of the USA or flew bombers through the US’s air defence identification zone.

The Australian government laughed off Indonesian threats to wind back co-operation and got a shock when Indonesia began to act, first with asylum seekers and then threatening our cattle exports. China is clearly upset, and it has also warned that co-operative relations between our two countries could be harmed. The government should take these warnings seriously and begin the process of removing US bases and ending the US military alliance. Only then can Australia become a force for peace and progress in the region and gain respect.

Next article – The Saboteurs

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