China | New Air Defense Zone Declared and Increased Tension with Vietnam
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New Air Defense Zone Declared and Increased Tension with Vietnam
In Nov. 2013, China announced a new air defense zone in an area over disputed islands in the East China Sea that have been the source of a dispute between Japan and China for years. The new air defense zone overlapped with an air zone declared by Japan decades ago. China's announcement included a warning that it would take "relevant measures according to different air threats" against any aircraft flying through the zone without first notifying the country.
The United States challenged the new military action threat by sending two unarmed B-52 bombers into the new air defense zone. Soon after, Japan and South Korea announced that they had also flown military planes over the zone and that the flights had been uninterrupted by China. China responded by sending fighter jets into the airspace.
High-ranking officials from China and Taiwan met in Nanking, China, in Feb. 2014. It was the first time since the 1949 split that minister-level officials held talks. While the meeting was largely symbolic, it signalled that both sides want to maintain stability and warmer ties.
Also in 2014, tensions increased between China and Vietnam when Vietnamese officials reported that their vessels had been hit by Chinese ships. "On May 4, Chinese ships intentionally rammed two Vietnamese Sea Guard vessels," said Foreign Ministry official Tran Duy Hai, during a news conference in Hanoi, Vietnam. "Chinese ships, with air support, sought to intimidate Vietnamese vessels."
The situation intensified three days later when Vietnamese ships confronted Chinese ships. The Chinese vessels were placing an oil rig off the coast of Vietnam when the confrontation occurred. The placement of the rig also led to protests throughout Vietnam and some of those protests turned violent. On May 14, anti-China protesters set fire to at least 15 foreign-owned factories throughout Vietnam, according to state media. Protesters also destroyed and looted offices of manufacturing companies owned or managed by Chinese workers. At least one person died in the protests.
The Vietnamese government asked China to remove the rig and dispatched a naval flotilla to the area. The rig was placed in waters claimed by both Vietnam and China.
The incident also caused tension between the U.S. and China. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called China's recent moves "provocative." China's foreign ministry was quick to respond. Spokeswoman Hua Chunying asked in a news briefing, "We hope that the U.S. side can carefully reflect - if they really hope for the Pacific Ocean to be peaceful, what kind of role do they actually want to play?"