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Will China Set Up an Air Defense Identification Zone in the South China Sea?

On May 4, Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense reportedly confirmed that China is planning to set up an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea. According to a source from within China’s military, plans for the South China Sea ADIZ have been in the pipeline since 2010, the same year Chinese authorities told a Japanese delegation visiting Beijing that they were considering establishing an East China Sea ADIZ. Ever since China announced its first ADIZ in the East China Sea in November 2013, a Chinese ADIZ has hung like a sword of Damocles over the South China Sea. On the day China declared its East China Sea ADIZ, the Chinese Ministry of Defense’ spokesman proclaimed, “China will establish other air defense identification zones at an appropriate time after completing preparations.”

If China sets up an ADIZ in the South China Sea, then it would not be the first in that theater. Early in the Cold War, the Philippine established its ADIZ in 1953, and South Vietnam also had one during the Vietnam War. Today, however, the Philippine ADIZ is inoperative, and the South Vietnamese ADIZ died forty-five years ago with the state that created it.

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