Friday, December 06, 2013

Del Rosario Eagerly Throws Gasoline on ADIZ Fire...

...But Should Be Worried About the Iron Law of Unintended Consequences

A commenter took issue with this piece in its original form.  I thought his comments about the tone were well-taken, and I've revised the text accordingly.  As an admonition to myself, the chinahand Twitter feed will be updated to "Less heat more light".  Also, he got me to thinking about the ADIZ friction we can expect over the South China Sea and I'm lifting my reply from the comments and placing it here. CH 12/7/13

First of all, I want to apologize for use of the word "stupid". It was inaccurate and inflammatory. I will revise the post accordingly.

Come to think of it, I consider Del Rosario's characterization of the ADIZ as well as the Coast Guard regs inaccurate and inflammatory, and very much part of his strategy to heighten the confrontation between the Philippines and the PRC. I don't see him playing good cop/bad cop with President Aquino; I believe he sees polarization as a mechanism to attract stronger, more overt US and Japanese backing for the Philippines. And, since I don't see the US and Japan providing firm military backing for the Philippines in its dispute with the PRC, I don't see a viable endgame for Del Rosario's strategy--unless he sees benefits for the Philippines in being lined up against the PRC in an economic cold war.

As for the ADIZ, it is as its name indicates an "Identification Zone". It has nothing to do with claiming "domestic air space". The Philippines would be well within its rights (and justified for air defense concerns) to declare its own ADIZ in the South China Sea, overlapping with the Chinese one if need be. I think it would have been good if everybody filed flight plans with everybody else for their aircraft, military and civilian.

Trouble is, the United States and Japan have already defied the Chinese ADIZ on military flights. So the PRC can easily point to the East China Sea precedent if they decide to fly military planes into Philippine and South Vietnam ADIZs without filing flight plans. In other words, the PRC, as a peer power, will always try to achieve parity with whatever measures the United States and, especially, Japan introduce into the regional security equation. When we push on China, remember that China will push back in the same way.

Moral is, I guess, be careful what you wish for.
Original text below

An article in Asia Times Online quoted Philippine Foreign Minister Albert Del Rosario as saying:

"There's this threat that China will control the air space [in the South China Sea] ... It transforms an entire air zone into China's domestic air space," Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario said in response to China's ADIZ announcement. "That is an infringement and compromises the safety of civil aviation ... it also compromises the national security of affected states." 

A couple observations:

1)  This is unmitigated horseshit flapdoodle.
2)  Nobody called him on it.

Remember that Rosario's office also went off half cocked about the PRC Hainan coast guard regulations a year ago:

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said over the weekend that China's reported plan to interdict ships that enter what it considers its territory in the South China Sea is a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Because of these reports, coming mostly from the media, the DFA said it would like China "to immediately clarify its reported plans to interdict ships that enter what it considers its territory in the South China Sea".
...
"[It is also] a direct threat to the entire international community, as it violates not only the maritime domain of coastal states established under Unclos, but also impedes the fundamental freedom of navigation and lawful commerce."

The DFA said this planned action by China is illegal and will validate the continuous and repeated pronouncements by the Philippines that China's claim of indisputable sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea is not only an excessive claim but a threat to all countries. 

Anybody remember that?  Anybody remember that the Chinese coast guard regs had nothing to do with freedom of navigation, lawful commerce, or sovereignty over the South China Sea?  Anybody?  Anybody?  Bueller?  Bueller?

The ADIZ hysterics remind me of the Hainan coast guard regs nothingburger controversy, both for the Del Rosario's inflammatory blathering inaccurate characterization and the clueless strutting somewhat superficial approach of the some Western news outlets in reporting the situation.

As I wrote in my piece for Asia Times:

Reuters for some reason continued to beat the Hainan coast guard regulations dead horse with an analysis posted on December 9 that begins: 
Imagine if the U.S. state of Hawaii passed a law allowing harbor police to board and seize foreign boats operating up to 1,000 km (600 miles) from Honolulu.

That, in effect, is what happened in China about a week ago. 

It’s not what happened in China a week ago, either actually or "in effect", as I think can be concluded by reading my ATOl piece.  Even if ATOl is not on Reuters’ radar, Dr. Fravel of MIT (and his commentary at The Diplomat, which is quoted and footnoted below) should be.  ..
And it is a dismal fail as a piece of snark.   The jurisdiction of the state of Hawaii extends 1380 miles from Honolulu to the outermost Northwestern Hawaiian Island, the Kure Atoll. 
For the mathematically challenged Reuters scribe, that’s more than twice as far as 600 miles that supposedly symbolizes the irresponsible overreach of the Hainan provincial government.
We live in interesting times, at least as far as the PRC is concerned.  Entire articles are spun out of threat perceptions, assumptions, inferences, assertions, and indignation.

The stirring call to arms is  the "threat" that "raised concerns".  There is "alarm". 

Facts don't matter.  To quote the song, It's feelings...nothing more than feelings..."

That, by the way, is why my current twitter handle is "Facts are stupid things". 

Facts might be confirmed or rebutted by the focus of scrutiny and concern.  But feelings are a subjective matter for the observer.


The only suitable recourse is "confidence-building"; and in some situations that oppressive sense of threat in the Western bosom is never relieved, no matter what the anxiety-provoking other does.

People with long memories (only me I guess) remember the run-up to the Iraq War, when everything that Saddam Hussein did or didn't do in his efforts to forestall the invasion were insufficient to allay the dreaded concerns.  Until recently, the same tactic was used to declare that Iran was unable to allay the concerns of the international community about its nuclear program.  Now the U.S. is reassured...but Israel isn't.  What's a mullah to do?

The media variation is to blame the victim, i.e. blame the PRC for its disinterest or clumsiness in getting its message across to "allay the concerns" and "build confidence".


The whole concern/confidence-building dynamic is fundamentally flawed.  Make that "logically unsound".  Maybe "intellectually dishonest".

And I think it's deployed when the "concerned party" is unwilling to say what is genuinely on its mind.

For China, the ultimate confidence-building gesture for the West would be "Could the Chinese Communist Party please collapse under a wave of popular democratic unrest, the Chinese economy undergo a painful free market restructuring, and the PLA footprint get shrunk by a combination of budget reductions, mission modification, demoralization, and conciliation by a new pro-Western liberal democratic government?"

Don't be afraid.  Ask for it!

And if you can't get it, start wondering if you're asking for the wrong thing.

We're probably headed in the opposite direction.  Instead of less anxiety/confidence rhetoric, we'll get more of it.

From the same article:

Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are drafting a joint statement to express concern over any "threat" to international civilian aviation. The draft statement, which reaffirms the common positions of Southeast Asian nations and Japan on "maritime security" and "freedom of navigation" in international waters, will be presented at the upcoming Japan-ASEAN summit in Tokyo. 

I don't mind government officials playing the "feelings" card.  It's a negotiating ploy, a way to deflect demands or decline offers that don't pass muster.  (Having said that, I really don't know what endgame Del Rosario has in mind, now that he's taken another step to up the confrontation with the PRC.  I get a feeling the rest of ASEAN doesn't really know, either.)

I really do wonder why the media plays along.   Maybe anxiety genuinely overcomes analytics.  Maybe resentment over the PRC's churlish treatment of Western journalists means that the Chinese position is doomed to short shrift until conditions improve.  Maybe overall loyalty to Western values elicits support for empty Western rhetoric.  Probably, it's realized that the PRC is doing a careful and responsible job of slicing the diplomatic and security salami, but we don't like them and don't want to give them the credit.

That's my feeling, anyway.
 





4 comments:

Unknown said...

Sir, I'm Filipino and I regularly follow your blog.

I would just like to know what you found so stupid about Sec. Del Rosario's comment about the ADIZ. You discussed a lot of things about media bias, but I have not heard anything that refutes the claim that the ADIZ "transforms an entire air zone into China's domestic air space."

This I think is at the very core of everyone's anger, since from our point of view it is seen as an escalation.

I hope you don't see this as being passive aggressive, but I really do want you to elaborate on your claim that any concerns that the Philippines and ASEAN may have in relation to this issue is "stupid."


China Hand said...

Hi
First of all, I want to apologize for use of the word "stupid". It was inaccurate and inflammatory. I will revise the post accordingly. Come to think of it, I consider Del Rosario's characterization of the ADIZ as well as the Coast Guard regs inaccurate and inflammatory, and very much part of his strategy to heighten the confrontation between the Philippines and the PRC. I don't see him playing good cop/bad cop with President Aquino; I believe he sees polarization as a mechanism to attract stronger, more overt US and Japanese backing for the Philippines. And, since I don't see the US and Japan providing firm military backing for the Philippines in its dispute with the PRC, I don't see a viable endgame for Del Rosario's strategy--unless he sees benefits for the Philippines in being lined up against the PRC in an economic cold war. As for the ADIZ, it is as its name indicates an "Identification Zone". It has nothing to do with claiming "domestic air space". The Philippines would be well within its rights (and justified for air defense concerns) to declare its own ADIZ in the South China Sea, overlapping with the Chinese one if need be. I think it would have been good if everybody filed flight plans with everybody else for their aircraft, military and civilian. Trouble is, the United States and Japan have already defied the Chinese ADIZ on military flights. So the PRC can easily point to the East China Sea precedent if they decide to fly military planes into Philippine and South Vietnam ADIZs without filing flight plans. In other words, the PRC, as a peer power, will always try to achieve parity with whatever measures the United States and, especially, Japan introduce into the regional security equation. When we push on China, remember that China will push back in the same way. Moral is, I guess, be careful what you wish for.

Unknown said...

First of all, thank you for responding. I don't mind anyone making strong remarks about my country as long as it's truthful and well founded. I'm not a very PC person myself. So I thank you for clarifying your position on this topic.

However, I must respectfully disagree that Sec. Del Rosario made his statement in order to get stronger backing from the U.S. or Japan.

I think the real long term strategy is the A.E.C. I assume you know about my government's current moves for arbitration over the disputed islands in the South China sea?

I think that what my government wants is to establish a precedent that will not only weaken China's claims in the region, but also strengthen the Philippine's role and prestige in the AEC should present trends and disagreements with the PRC continue.

I know that this is a bit of a stretch, but Philippine foreign policy is currently trying to broaden ASEAN ties, and so I think that our sensitivity to China's latest moves is part of a broader attempt to strengthen our ability to forge a consensus with other ASEAN states once the AEC is active in 2015.

This is not to say, however, that these are all productive developments for the region but that's realpolitik for you.

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