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CFR Media Call on East China Sea with Sheila Smith and Scott Snyder

Speaker: Scott A. Snyder, Senior Fellow for Korea Studies and Director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy
Presider: Paul B. Stares, General John W. Vessey Senior Fellow for Conflict Prevention and Director of the Center for Preventive Action
December 4, 2013
Council on Foreign Relations

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OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your patience in holding. We now have your presenters in conference. Please be aware that each of your lines is in a listen-only mode. At the conclusion of today's presentation, we will open the floor for questions. At that time, instructions will be given as to the procedure to follow if you would like to ask a question.

It is now my pleasure to introduce today's first presenter, Mr. Paul Stares.

STARES: Hello, everyone. My name is Paul Stares. I'm a senior fellow here at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C., and director of its Center for Preventive Action. I want to welcome you to this media conference call on the brewing crisis in the East China Sea between Japan and China over the disputed islands known as the Senkakus to the Japanese and the Diaoyu to the Chinese. This dispute has recently escalated with the announcement by China that it would extend its air defense identification zone over the islands.

To discuss this dispute, I'm joined today by two of the council's leading Asia specialists, Sheila Smith, who is senior fellow for Japan studies, and Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea studies and director of the program on U.S.-Korea policy.

Let me turn first to Sheila Smith. If you could just give us a brief overview of how you see the crisis, particularly for Japan, and what the central issues are here that we are currently most worried about.

SMITH: Thank you, Paul, and hello, everyone. I think there's two areas in which Japan is concerned about the Chinese announcement, and the first you introduced in your remarks, of course, is the impact on the island dispute, which has been ongoing now for at least this last year in a very troublesome way. The Japanese and Chinese, of course, don't have a political conversation at the moment about how to manage this dispute, and they certainly don't have any interest at the moment in moving to third-party remediation to resolve it.

So you have a fairly cumbersome political stalemate between the two countries and some very heightened sensitivity among the publics in both countries. Japanese sentiment on the Senkaku Islands was fairly dormant for most of the postwar period but has become now quite volatile and easy, I think, opportunity for politicians to capitalize on if they choose.

But the prime minister has been trying to reach out to Xi Jinping to try to find a way to move to a more high-level political dialogue on restoring the relationship and trying to find some common ground. I think it's very hard. I think this announcement of the ADIZ now will make it even harder.

There's a second piece of the puzzle, I think, from the Japanese policy standpoint, and that is, really, the broader dimensions of the East China Sea and how to manage that space, that maritime space. Japan and China have not resolved their different interpretations of where their median line or where their boundary -- their maritime boundary is on the East China Sea, and so now this new ADIZ announcement has introduced a new airspace dimension to that, which I think for both the militaries and for civilian and energy exploration reasons I think is going to be very troublesome to manage.

It's interesting that the ADIZ does seem to correspond broadly to where China wants to see its maritime boundary with Japan. And it fairly significantly overlaps with their U.N. Law of the Sea position on the continental shelf. So I think there's more to this than simply the island dispute. I think it has a larger implication for Chinese strategic interests, both in the military and in the broader maritime domain.

STARES: Thanks, Sheila. Let me just turn to Scott briefly. And, Scott, if you could just give us your sense of how this issue is seen from Seoul, from South Korea, and what it means for the larger issues relating to the Korean peninsula.

SNYDER: Sure, thanks, Paul.

You know, South Korea really, I think, had perceived the East China Sea dispute as something that didn't necessarily involve them directly, until China's announcement of the ADIZ. And so that announcement, I think, came as a bit of a shock to the South Koreans, because that ADIZ coverage area that China announced also intersects with Korea's zone and also with some maritime interests that Korea has, including related to a marine research center that South Korea is operating that is part of the zone.

Moreover, I think South Korea feels a little bit caught in the middle now between two different conflicts in Northeast Asia. Of course, South Korea's primary preoccupation has been with North Korea, but now they also have to look south. And so as South Korea has found itself needing to respond to China's ADIZ announcement, I think Seoul has also been conflicted about whether to focus on dialogue or whether to focus on possibly making an announcement of its own, expanded ADIZ, really, as a matter of playing catch-up to the scope of China's proclaimed ADIZ.

And so that set of issues, I think, has been the main preoccupation for South Korea over the course of the past two weeks. They're very seemingly contradictory approaches, and I think that one of the things going on behind the scenes actually has been U.S. discouragement of any premature or early announcement by South Korea of an ADIZ that might just pour fuel on the flames.

The other aspect I think of the East China Sea tensions that affect South Korea has been related to South Korea's effort to walk the tightrope between China and the United States. And this has also, I think, been an element of the domestic debate surrounding how South Korea should respond to the Chinese ADIZ announcement. We can go into that in more detail perhaps in the Q&A, but maybe I should just wrap up there.

STARES: OK, thanks, Scott.

Let's -- just to kick off some of the Q&A period, if I could just turn to Sheila and pose a couple of quick questions, and then to Scott in similar fashion, and then we can open it up broadly to those on the line, Sheila, if -- you know, if you could just sort of lay out what our -- that is, the U.S. -- equity is here. What is the risk to the U.S.? And what ultimately will this effect of this dispute have on -- on the actual U.S.-Japan alliance and where it's going and what both sides want to see with that alliance?

SMITH: That could take us the rest of the phone call, so let me...

(LAUGHTER)

Let me try briefly to give a couple of leadoff points. And then, again, I'll defer to the Q&A. But, first and foremost, of course, the United States on the island dispute, we have a long history of involvement with the Senkaku-Diaoyu Island dispute. The United States after World War II occupied those islands, right? And in the -- in the San Francisco peace treaty, they were stipulated that they would be part of what the United States would occupy. When we reverted Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty in the early '70s, the Senkaku Islands were part of that reversion process.

So the United States has a history in the management of the islands, and that, of course, is very important to the Japanese understanding of our role in the dispute. Our official policy, of course, is we don't take a position on sovereignty, which is fairly consistent across the globe. But we do consider the islands under Japanese administrative control and, therefore, under the protections of Article V of our bilateral security treaty.

Since the tensions escalated first in 2010, when we had a fishing trawler run into Japanese Coast Guard vessels, and then more recently and more dangerously since last year, the Chinese have sought to assert control after the Japanese prime minister at the time purchased the islands from a private owner, and the Chinese response to that has been to send our civilian maritime patrols.

But then by the end of last year and early into this year, the militaries began to become a little bit more engaged. And, of course, the United States was very interested in, first of all, reassuring Japan that the deterrent -- our deterrent was in place, that we consider the Senkakus to be Japanese -- under Japanese control and would act accordingly, but also to persuade Beijing that this was not a place to miscalculate U.S. interests or U.S. engagement, and our -- and at the cabinet level, both secretary of state and secretary of defense have been actively communicating that to both Tokyo and Beijing.

I think today the ADIZ announcement stimulated a different and broader concern for the United States, and you saw that in Secretary of State Hagel's statement on Saturday, immediately after the Chinese announcement, that this would not affect the way in which the United States military considered its operations in the East China Sea or in the region. And, again, we have two allies -- Japan and South Korea -- and the Chinese ADIZ, of course, affects both.

There's been some -- there's been a very positive Japanese response to Secretary Hagel's response. And I think overall the Obama administration is hearing very positive signs about the way in which we've responded initially. There is some divergence, though, in the way the Japanese government and the U.S. government have responded to civilian airliners. Our State Department announced a little bit later that it urged our civilian airliners to communicate with the Chinese on flight plans in order to avoid, I think, any kind of incident that might have civilian airliners in contact with Chinese, you know, fighter jets.

The Japanese have urged their civilian aircraft not to conform. And, of course, Japan takes a very strong position that it doesn't recognize the ADIZ, which overlaps with its own. I think Vice President Biden in his trip to Tokyo has clarified U.S. thinking. I think there's going to be a difference there in terms of civilian airliners. But I do think that there's a joint communique, joint statement that was made by the prime minister and the vice president that will reinforce the idea that the United States and Japan stand absolutely firmly in not recognizing the ADIZ in terms of military aircraft.

One other piece of the diplomatic puzzle for Japan, the United States, and other partners in the region and, indeed, across the globe is the Chinese announcement of this ADIZ is not just about the geography of the ADIZ, but it's a fairly comprehensive request for all traffic in that airspace to basically subordinate itself to Chinese control. And this is not the norm in the way ADIZ's in other parts of the globe are managed.

And so Japan has moved with the ICAO, which -- you know, overseas aviation issues globally -- to reassert the norm that the kind of compliance is out of sync, really, with the way in which other ADIZ's are monitored and operated. So I expect that there will be a coordinated coalition, diplomatic coalition to urge China to come back a little bit into the fold of international norms, in terms of aviation management.

STARES: OK. Thanks, Sheila.

Scott, Sheila mentioned that Vice President Biden has just been in Tokyo, and today he's in Beijing, but I believe on Thursday he travels to Seoul. And I wonder whether you could sort of lay out what the message will be, how those discussions will unfold, I'm sure that he will be talking about the evolving situation in North Korea, and there's been some recent sort of surprise announcements out of Pyongyang.

And I just wondered whether you could sort of give us a sense of how this is going to affect the general sort of diplomatic process in trying to deal with North Korea at this time.

SNYDER: Yeah, well, in many respects, North Korea stands out as the biggest lost opportunity that has emerged as a result of the Chinese ADIZ announcements. I think that before that announcement, there was the possibility that the U.S. and China and South Korea and Japan might all essentially be on the same page in trying to push North Korea towards denuclearization. But, you know, that opportunity I think is lost by the focus on the ADIZ. Certainly, the North Korea issue will be discussed as part of the meetings that Vice President Biden will hold in Seoul, as will the ADIZ issues.

Another background issue that is interesting is U.S. requests to South Korea not to use Chinese-made equipment from Huawei. And also, I think more important, but most sensitive, is the desire on the part of the U.S. to try to get Japan-South Korea relations back on track.

And, of course, Japan and South Korea have their own island dispute which is part of a broader set of historical issues that have divided Japan and South Korea and that have been exacerbated over the course of the past year under President Park and Prime Minister Abe. I think that's a set of concerns under the surface that the U.S. would very much like to see Japan and South Korea closer -- more closely coordinated on more on the same page especially as this new challenge from China has arisen in the form of the ADIZ announcement.

STARES: Great. Thanks, Scott. Why don't we open it up now to those on the line? If you could just state your name and affiliation, that would be very helpful. So do we have a first question?

OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, at this time, we'll open the floor for your questions. If you would like to ask a question, you may do so now by pressing star, one on your touch-tone phones. We will take questions in the order they are received. If at any time you'd like to remove yourself from the questioning queue, please press star, two. Again, to ask a question, please press star, one now.

Our first question comes from Fred Katayama with Reuters.

STARES: Go ahead, Fred.

OPERATOR: Mr. Katayama, your line is open. You may now ask your question.

QUESTION: Yes, thanks a lot. Appreciate it. I have two questions. One, Sheila, you referred to Vice President Biden's meeting, but based on the language, it's difficult to tell whether the meeting had actually been effective in reducing tensions over the new air zone, and wanted to get your thoughts on that, since we didn't get much details on that discussion.

And, secondly, Scott, you referred to the Japan-Korea island historical issue. What impact will this ADIZ pose on that -- that issue between the two nations over the island?

STARES: Sheila, do you want to go first?

SMITH: Sure, OK. Thanks. I'm sorry. I was waiting for Paul.

STARES: OK.

SMITH: Hi, Fred, how are you? Thanks for that question. I think, you know, the visit in Tokyo clearly came at a good moment. You know, so I think we have a little bit of a readout on the Japanese visit. I don't know that we have a readout yet on Biden's discussions with Xi Jinping.

But at least on the Japan side, it was an opportune moment to reassure that the alliance would be operating in lock step, that the Japanese position vis-a-vis the civilian airliners and our position vis-a-vis our civilian airliners was not necessarily an evidence that we were not treating the issue in the same way or with the same set of seriousness.

I do think that it was good that we had the vice president there immediately after that announcement, because as you probably well know, in Japan, that was -- the State Department announcement was somewhat confusing. I do understand that this is going to be a conversation that one visit by Vice President Biden is not going to fix. We are going to have to develop a kind of sensitivity to crisis management mechanisms or developing the right kind of consultative processes. I think now that, really, will mean tending this relationship very carefully at the very highest levels. I expect that Japan's new NSC and our national security staff will also be another venue for close coordination and consultations.

Our last piece of the puzzle, the military side of things, is very close. You've all already seen that we've had a fairly significant naval exercise to the south of the East China Sea. And I expect that we will have more kinds of demonstrations of the -- the closeness of the two militaries in the months -- days and months to come.

STARES: And Scott?

SNYDER: Yeah. With regards to South Korea's own debate over expanding its ADIZ and implications for Korea-Japan relations, I think that the main issue is that, as South Korea contemplates the announcement of an expansion, it's likely that South Korea's ADIZ could also overlap with areas that have been already declared by Japan. And the concern, I think, is that that announcement might stimulate further additional other announcements, including potentially by Japan to extend ADIZ coverage over the disputed territory between Japan and South Korea.

Korea also faces a similar concern in the Yellow Sea area, as well, with the possibility that China might also extend its ADIZ further in that region on Korea's West Coast.

STARES: Thanks, Scott. Next question?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Josh Rogin with the Daily Beast.

STARES: Go ahead, Josh.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Thanks for doing the call. I found it interesting that you say that a potential -- I don't know -- breakthrough or progress on establishing a road forward for North Korea was damaged by the Chinese announcement. I'm wondering, can you talk a little bit more about that? What was that based on? What did you think was going to happen? And then I have one more quick question after that.

STARES: Scott?

SNYDER: Yeah. Well, it's more the fact that there had been a lot of consultation about the possibility of North Korea coming back to six-party talks, you know, active diplomacy among chief negotiators, and in some sense I think you could say that, you know, the time is ripe to try to establish a clearer understanding, especially with the Chinese leadership, about what the direction of next steps might be. And, in fact, I think the announcement about Kim Jong-un's uncle losing power, you know, could have potentially, you know, dramatized the need for consensus even further on that front.

And so, you know, this issue just distracts from that. It draws the North Korea issue into potential conflict with the overall rebalance debate between the U.S. and China in ways that I think the North Korea issue had been relatively isolated from up until now.

QUESTION: OK, great, thanks. And one more question. I'm wondering if what you see as sort of the management of this new crisis in the South China Sea inside the Obama administration, who seems to be in charge of this? Are there different equities in different parts of the U.S. government? Do different agencies have different views? And who's running the show here, as best (inaudible)

STARES: Do you want to take that one, Sheila?

SMITH: Well, as best as we can know, I think, Josh, is the right -- the right piece -- the qualifier here. I think clearly the vice president's visit provides an opportunity for his engagement, right? I sense that the national security staff, of course, will be the immediate coordinator for much of this.

Depending on what kind of management we're talking about, though, different bureaucracies will have to take the lead, and so if you're talking about, you know, shoring up the alliance and ensuring deterrence is in good shape and is communicated clearly, both to Japan and to Korea, as well as to Beijing, then, of course, DOD has the lead. And I think you saw that lead being taken very quickly by Secretary Hagel on Saturday.

On the diplomacy about how to manage this, clearly, obviously that's the job for State. I don't know yet the extent to which State wants to have a huge stake in this. There is the S&ED process of strategic consultations that was initiated under Kurt Campbell in Secretary Clinton's era. I don't know yet whether or not that's going to be a venue that continues to be fruitful in the U.S.-China conversation about regional issues in strategy and security in particular.

So I sense that DOD will continue to have the lead, unless we have some kind of opening of a dialogue about risk reduction measures in the region or if and when we have presidential engagement in trying to figure out whether the East Asia summit or other kinds of regional venues is the place to pursue that. But for now, I suspect it's very closely going to be in the hands of the top leadership of the U.S. and China to try and get China to engage. Beyond that, I think DOD is going to have the lead.

QUESTION: Thank you.

STARES: OK. Next question?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Elliot Waldman with Tokyo Broadcasting System.

QUESTION: Yeah, hello. Can you hear me?

STARES: Yep, we can.

QUESTION: Great, thank you. Thanks for doing the call. My question has to do with the U.S. stance on this issue. Yesterday, the talking points delivered by White House and State briefers was that the U.S. is going to ask China not to implement the ADIZ, which seems to suggest almost a tacit recognition of a sort of pro forma existence of the ADIZ, as long as it's not actually -- as long as nothing substantive happens as a result.

And I was wondering if you share that view of the evolving U.S. stance and, if so, what -- to what extent that might create a rift with the Japanese approach to this, which is much more hard line, as you suggested. Thank you.

SMITH: I'll jump in. Two things. I think, you know, clearly the Japanese position has been to refuse to accept the ADIZ. And that makes sense in large part because the Japanese and Chinese ADIZ's overlap, right? So the prime minister will have to determine when and if he wants to caution his forces or not caution his forces or allow his civilian airliners to move through or not move through, right? So that's a decision for the Japanese government to make.

We have made our position -- or the Obama administration has made the U.S. policy decision that it will not -- the announcement will not affect the way in which our military operates, right? But there is a difference between civilian planes and military operations.

I think -- and, again, I don't have insight into the inner debate of the State Department -- but my sense is that the -- we've already had an incident in Northeast Asia where the Soviets shot the Korean airliner out of the sky and with a massive loss of life to civilians. I think, given that experience, our government is probably alert to the possibility that civilian airliners coming in contact with the Chinese military, seeking to implement that -- the ADIZ protections that they announced last Saturday, I think, is a very dangerous situation. So my sense is that that was a concern for the danger of U.S. civilian aircraft and pilots.

That all being said, I don't think that the request is going -- I think the United States is going to request that China reconsider the ADIZ. ADIZ's by their very nature, though, are not negotiated. They are -- you know, they are announced by governments. Our government did it. Japan did it, after our occupation, as did South Korea.

What I sense here is an effort to try to get China to start to talk about the way in which it is going to police and implement this ADIZ announcement. That's where I think that there is a hope that there will be some conversation about bringing China into this broader global norm of, if you declare an ADIZ, your militaries may be able to operate in a certain way, but you have a respect for the civilian carriers of other nations. And I think that's the avenue that the Obama administration has placed. I don't think that's going to be a stumbling block for the U.S. and Japan.

QUESTION: Great, thank you.

SNYDER: I'll just add one footnote that, despite the KAL 007 incident, the South Korean position on non-notification of China civilian aircraft was identical to that of Japan.

STARES: Thanks, Scott. Next question?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Carol Williams with the Los Angeles Times.

STARES: Hi, Carol.

QUESTION: Hi, how are you, Paul? My question is, how much civilian air traffic transits the ADIZ, as proclaimed by China? Is this a big imposition for civilian carriers to have to comply?

SMITH: That's a -- oh, sorry, should I jump in?

STARES: Go ahead.

SMITH: That's a good question. I don't have a how much -- I don't have a traffic volume number for you, so -- but it is considerable, if you've traveled in Northeast Asia, you know that there are -- you know, there's flights -- many, many flights from many, many Japanese airports every day that will go through that ADIZ, whether they're destined for Taipei or Beijing or Shanghai, right, or even further south. So depending on which part of the ADIZ you're looking at, there are hundreds of flights that transit there every day.

The normal management of ADIZ, as I understand it, is that, you know, you give your flight plan to a country if you are destined for that country. Unless you're, you know, overflying airspace or territory of a country, you don't normally have to check in. China in the announcement, at least, suggested that everybody had to check in. And I think that's the part where I think we're going to see some effort and negotiation or at least some kind of consultative process proceed, but it's a high volume of traffic.

STARES: Thank you. Scott, did you have anything there? Or should we just go to the next question?

SNYDER: No, let's go on.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Richard Sisk with Military.com.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this. And could either or both of you comment on if you're seeing mixed messages coming out of China through all of this, some more bellicose statements in official media, which contrast with official statements coming out of the Ministry of -- the Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry. Is this the usual good cop/bad cop way of doing business? Or is there something unusual going on here in this particular situation?

STARES: Any takers?

SNYDER: I'll just make one observation. I think that the Chinese seem to also be trying to grapple with how they're going to define this in practice. And I think that they have responded to some degree to the push-back by trying to tone down the requirements and significance of the announcement to date.

STARES: Uh-huh.

SMITH: I would agree with that. The other thing I think it's been interesting to watch is the Chinese media has initially -- when it declared the ADIZ -- had had some pretty -- you know, some pretty colorful media coverage of the Chinese Air Force, right, and who was going to be out there guarding the skies for the motherland. They had a lot of that. And that also seems to have been toned down slightly in the last several days.

So I sense that there is an attempt to grapple with the push-back that they're getting. That's why the readout, I think, from Vice President Biden's trip will be very interesting.

STARES: OK, next question?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Shaun Tandon with AFP.

QUESTION: Yeah, hi. Thanks for doing this call. My question might overlap a little bit with the previous question, but just in terms of a resolution to this, I mean, do you think it's realistic to find one side potentially, just -- for example, the Chinese side, just changing their decision on the zone? I mean, is that a realistic thing? Or do you think it's more a question of just trying to manage it at this point?

And adding to that, do you see any role for international organizations? I mean, obviously, China having veto power at the Security Council, that might not make it a very practical place to resolve this issue, but do you think that international organizations could potentially play a role in this? Or do you think this is something that really would be sorted out between the U.S., China, and the regional players?

SMITH: It's a good question. If I could make a couple comments, I think my answer to your first question is, I don't see the Chinese rolling it back. I don't think for domestic political reasons that that would be an easy thing to do to begin with. And, second of all, they clearly have, I think, done it with the intention of pursuing aims that are far beyond, you know, the China-Japan island dispute. I think it's a bigger piece of their strategic puzzle. So I think management is where we probably should focus our attention.

That being said, I think there are -- different pieces of this puzzle belong in different international venues, right? So the ICAO, which I mentioned earlier, is just -- is the right body for discussing the aviation -- the implementation side of it, which we were referring to a few minutes ago. It's a very innocuous body, but it's a fairly important body for regulating international aviation, and so I think that will be an important venue.

When you start talking about things like, how do you divvy up the East China Sea and how do you deal with the boundary disputes and maritime, as well as airspace? Those things, of course, the United Nations Law of the Sea is the place where that happens, and that territorial dispute, you could think of third-party mediation, as well.

But I think the key here is really going to be in the regional conversation. And I know as difficult, as Scott alluded to, as the Japan-Korea relationship is at the moment, I think whatever can be done to get the Northeast Asian summitry back on track, the trilateral summitry, that, of course, would be the ideal venue for trying to find some kind of cooperative or collaborative solution to this.

The Chinese boycotted this, this year. There is the second -- the next meeting will take place in Japan next year. I hope at least South Korea and Japan can get themselves to a position where they want to have this meeting held with or without Xi Jinping, but I think that's the venue that I think might be the most constructive.

SNYDER: Yeah, and I'll just underscore what Sheila said at the end, that, you know, the best opportunity -- or the best scenario would be one in which these issues provide a catalyst for improving regional dispute management capabilities or possibly even institutionalizing bodies that could serve to help play that role. But, you know, under current circumstances, it looks like a very idealistic hope that that would occur.

STARES: Yeah, I think it's another reminder of the absence of a sub-regional -- effective sub-regional institution here. So, next question?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Dale Ponikvar with Milbank Tweed.

QUESTION: Yeah, hi. Actually, you've been following down the line of my questions with these last few, but that reduces my question to more or less, why now? In other words, the Chinese, are they playing a gambit to see how we react? I understand they haven't played this up domestically that much with their own public. Doesn't it seem to automatically galvanize all the other Asian nations in thinking, well, we have to get together and defend ourselves? I mean, is this just that the Chinese think this is an inevitable part of the process going forward and let's start it now? Or is there something tied to the change in regime? You know, excuse me, change in administration. Why now?

STARES: Good question.

SMITH: I'll hazard a guess, and it's -- again, I don't know that I have -- any of us have a definitive answer on this at the moment, but two pieces of the puzzle, where I started, I think would be the -- first, the island dispute, right? The dynamics of the escalation of interaction between Japanese and Chinese civilian and then increasingly military forces over the course of the last year, the Japanese have an ADIZ. It goes fairly close to the Chinese coastline. The Chinese have responded. I mean, I think there's that. I do think it matters to the -- for the Chinese claims or kind of trying -- effort to undermine Japan's monopoly of control over those islands.

But it does parallel also the broader Chinese statements on their ambitions for EEZ and maritime space in the East China Sea and potentially also in the Yellow Sea, as Scott said, or even in the South China Sea. I'll be very interested to see -- I think a lot of people are looking at this ADIZ to see if it's a test case for further expansion in these other two directions.

I sense that it has both the specific relationship to the dynamics of their island dispute, but also it comes at a time when China is increasingly and very conspicuously demonstrating not only its capability, but its intention to expand its control over its coastal waters and beyond to the first island chain.

STARES: I'd agree with that. Next question?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Rob Gentry with TV Asahi.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. I wanted to ask two questions. One is on the resolution of this and -- I think Sheila mentioned how the ICAO might be an important venue. If something was to come out of that, some sort of agreement for procedures, for transit that are more palatable to other countries, what sort of timeline would you envision for that to come about?

And my other question is that the talking points from the U.S. administration have mentioned things like emergency communications channels and so forth. Do either of you feel that this is some -- being viewed in the DOD as an opportunity, perhaps counterintuitively, to push their sort of persistent request for more communication, military-to-military communication?

SMITH: Sorry, should I jump in here?

STARES: Yeah, go ahead.

SNYDER: Yeah, go ahead.

SMITH: Thank you. On the ICAO, again, this is not an institution that I follow closely, and we all now pay attention to it because of this incident, but I don't know what their deliberative schedule is like. The Japanese diplomats have already raised the issue with the ICAO. I suspect they will raise it again in a broader context in the U.N., et cetera.

So the wheels of that machinery are turning. Vice President Biden, I assume, has had -- whether it's an ICAO-specific suggestion or not, he has had a conversation, I assume by now, with Xi Jinping and others about implementation, which is really what that's about. So I think there's -- this will come at Beijing in different venues and from different directions.

On the second part of your question, you know, Japan and China, after the fishing trawler incident, right, in 2010, the Japanese and Chinese governments began what they call high-level maritime talks, right, which was a kind of across Japanese government various bureaucracies, from the defense to -- and the Gaimusho to education and science, et cetera. They began that as kind of, you know, exchanging e-mail addresses and contact points and things like that.

They also began discussions on a hotline. But that all got interrupted by last year's, you know, re-escalation of the problem. That is now high on the list of what our talking points are on the U.S. side. We want the Chinese to come back to the table with Japan to have these kinds of risk reduction or at least crisis communication mechanisms.

And I think that's where our focus is really going to continue to be, whether it's in our bilateral with China, but we're also going to be pushing very hard, I think, in the Obama administration to suggest to Beijing that it really ought to talk to the Japanese directly. And I think that's been a talking point that's been added as a result of the ADIZ.

SNYDER: I mean, I think that that's right. I'll just add one additional observation, and that is that I think one of the aspects of the ADIZ announcement that is most challenging, perhaps, for the Obama administration is that that the rebalance has been framed in part as trying to hold China to international norms. But the ADIZ issue is one that shows how norms are still in formation in East Asia in some cases. And so this is a much more complicated task as China attempts to assert in areas that are not already normed out.

STARES: OK. Next question?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Kian Kut (ph) with the Sengai Times (ph).

QUESTION: Hi. Hi, Scott. The South Korean government decided to declare new Korean ADIZ which covers the southernmost islands, as well as Ieodo Rock. Scott, how do you expect the United States government to react to the expansion of the Korean ADIZ?

SNYDER: Well, first, I think that the U.S. has quietly urged South Korea not to make the announcement yet until it has undergone consultations with neighboring parties. In other words, South Korea should learn a lesson from China's unilateral announcement and do it the right way.

This is probably going to be a subject of further conversations during Vice President Biden's time in Seoul. And I don't know whether it will -- the timing of any announcement will be further influenced by those discussions.

STARES: Next question?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Hillary Galash (ph) with ARD (ph).

QUESTION: Hi, thank you so much. Just playing scenarios, are we really looking at a danger of escalation in the region? And what would that mean for the United States, kind of a worst-case scenario, and what timeframes we might be talking about and dealing with? Thank you.

STARES: Want to take that on first, Sheila?

SMITH: Sure. I think, you know, the question really is -- yes, is the short answer. The ADIZ announcement now brings Chinese military jets in direct competition with Japanese. So the overlap with the ADIZ's mean that there will be Chinese and Japanese fighter jets in the same space claiming the same mission, which is to defend their airspace against intruders, right, or at least policing their airspace against aircraft that are coming from other countries.

So you have that overlap where none existed before. That means more proximity, more close interaction, and more potential miscalculation by pilots who have a political goal in their operations in mind, defending their country's airspace, right?

Given the tensions between Japan and China that have risen over the last year, this is -- it has become -- it's a sensitive operation if you're a pilot anyway. It's a more sensitive political operation today than it's ever been in the past. Neither side will want to show weakness, and neither side will want to be in a mode for second-guessing or being cautious and compromising, right? That's just by definition in an airspace zone in particular, where you have a quick reaction, right, sensitive reaction time. That's a very dangerous scenario.

The two jets have been scrambling -- you know, the two air forces have been scrambling against each other for some time, but they haven't really operated in that kind of proximity, the kind of proximity that that scenario imagines all that much. So, again, you can imagine that implementation, Chinese decisions about implementation are going to be very crucial. I think the habits that will evolve between the Japanese and Chinese air forces will hopefully evolve into a scenario of predictability. You know, clearly, the Russians and the Japanese up north have been interacting. They're much, much closer to each other, right, physically, but they've been interacting throughout the Cold War. They have mechanisms of communication if somebody makes a mistake. If a Russian jet arrives somewhere it's not supposed to arrive, the Japanese report it and then go back, and their diplomats and defense officials talk about it during those channels of communication.

There are no regular channels of communication between Japan and China, political or military, and I think those are the -- that's the mechanisms that everybody's hoping are going to be created. But I think the likelihood -- I'm not saying we're going to war tomorrow. Don't get me wrong. But I think you should calculate in your political risk calculation that it has gone up a notch or two in a significant direction. In the absence of that political or military dialogue on risk reduction, then it is a fairly tenuous situation.

QUESTION: Thank you.

STARES: Scott, presumably the same dynamics at work in -- between South Korea and China, as well as South Korea and Japan, too, right?

SNYDER: Well, I'm actually a little bit less concerned at the moment about the likelihood of unintended consequences or conflict. It really depends on how China decides it wants to police the zone it has declared. So the thing that is concerning is that it creates a framework whereby the potential for conflict is there, but we've already seen the U.S., Japan and South Korea fly into China's ADIZ with no indication of challenge, in fact, a Chinese indication that they monitored the flights, but they didn't do anything about it.

And so I think the concern comes in terms of how China begins to try to do monitoring and how extensive those efforts to be in the zone might be. This is an identification zone. It's not necessarily a zone that China is bound to fill with defense -- with military assets.

STARES: Uh-huh, OK. Let's move along.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Jose Katibag (ph) with the Philippine Star.

QUESTION: So, Sheila, you mentioned that this ADIZ is a test case for further expansion to other areas. So you expect China to establish an ADIZ over the South China Sea. Now, what is your timeline? What repercussions will be so? And what will stop China from broadening this ADIZ?

SMITH: Well, I think you've made me sound more definitive than I intended, so -- but I think it is -- it is potentially a test case for China. I mean, I think if we're all kind of ruminating on what motivated China and why this timing -- but I think everybody recognizes that this is -- this could be, again, something that China is interested in doing in the Yellow Sea, as well as being interested in South China Sea.

I certainly couldn't predict when and how China might move in the direction of doing that. I think the reaction that China gets and the way -- as Scott said, the way that China decides to police the ADIZ I think will go a long way to showing us what the ultimate Chinese intentions may be.

If there is a successful conversation with China and consultations going forward about how to manage the overlapping ADIZ's, if there is some consultative mechanisms that are created here, I think there could be some positive outcome so that if there is an announcement elsewhere, then the lessons learned from that could also be applied there.

But I think right now all I was trying to say is that this could be the first in many areas in which China is interested in establishing an ADIZ, and we ought to be careful and -- in our analysis of how China is proceeding with this.

STARES: OK, thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

STARES: We have about 10 minutes left. If you could ask the next question, please?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Garrett Mitchell with the Mitchell Report.

QUESTION: Thanks very much for doing this. And I should say that I dialed in about five minutes late, so if this has been covered, we can quickly go to the next question or questions. I'm still a bit perplexed, having listened to this conversation and others in the last few days, as to the genesis of this. Having heard a variety of possibilities, I'm still searching a bit.

And one of the -- one of the ways that I think about that is to ask whether we should think about this as -- as an expression of foreign policy or as a tactical move that has to do with domestic politics and -- and whether we should see this as an action in and of itself to be taken at face value or whether this is a move in a chess game, either internationally or domestically.

STARES: OK. Obviously, profound questions here. And Sheila and Scott obviously focus more on Japan and South Korea than Chinese politics, but anybody want to take a crack at that?

SMITH: I just -- I have a quite simple answer. I think it's a strategic choice. I think it's related to China's larger maritime and strategic thinking. I don't necessarily think it's a hostile decision, and so I think that's where we ought to be careful about reading intentions, but it is something, I think, that the -- that Beijing feels that it has a right to and that it needs to assert its control over the East China Sea. So I think it's strategic, not tactical, and I think it was done for strategic reasons, not for domestic politics reasons.

QUESTION: Scott?

SNYDER: I think there's no question that it is an expression of intent that fits with a broader strategic picture. And with regard to the domestic influences, I think that everybody is trying to sort out exactly how the Xi Jinping administration operates and where the, you know, sources of influence are, but, you know, it's also clear that President Xi is a stronger leader than his predecessor. And so, you know, that might be the more significant question, rather than, you know, was the military or the Foreign Ministry or somebody else the architect behind it?

STARES: OK.

QUESTION: Thanks.

STARES: Next question?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Jimin Sun (ph) with Qumyang Daily News (ph).

QUESTION: Hi. South Korean government has not finalized when to announce its expansion of its own ADIZ. But it seems to have concluded that it is unavoidable to expand its own ADIZ to include Ieodo underwater rock, because of, you know, domestic and general public's opinion. And it seems to have finished discussing with its neighboring countries. If the case, do you think it will make even complicate -- make matters worse? Or do you think if it -- it will open a new forum for discussion, Sheila?

SMITH: I'm sorry. I'm not sure quite sure which forum we meant. Can I ask you to -- which would be the new forum for discussion?

QUESTION: You talked about the venue can be...

SMITH: In Northeast Asia, right.

QUESTION: Yes, right, right.

SMITH: Yes, OK, I'm sorry. I just wanted to make sure I was clear and I understood your question. Yes, I absolutely think that, you know, the beginning of the trilateral conversation in December 2008 between Japan, ROK and China was a very positive step for sub-regional management. And I think for several years there, there was some indications that this would move from -- you know, it started out with economic purposes, but then very quickly China embraced it as a place where it could talk to South Korean leaders and Japanese leaders about North Korea, for example.

And I think there's a lot of potential in that trilateral venue for dealing with this kind of complex, yet important sub-regional issue. And it's the natural place for this to be addressed, and I think it's the most constructive conversation that the three leaders of that region can have.

The East China Sea is not going to move. It's going to be there. And the three countries will have to politically manage their relationships across it. And I think that's the best place to address both maritime stability, as well as this now -- this added dimension of airspace regulation.

SNYDER: I'd just add that -- oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, go ahead.

SNYDER: I was just going to say, I might add that the Park Geun-hye administration has also put forward this Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative, which is really a vision for regional multilateralism in Northeast Asia. And so that -- I think this set of issues is well suited as an agenda for that particular vision. The question, of course, is whether or not South Korean diplomacy is in a position to support and realize the vision that has been put forward.

STARES: OK, we have five more minutes, and I think time for a couple of more questions.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Dimung Lee (ph) with the Vietnam News.

QUESTION: Hello, thank you. Can you both share your view on the possibility that other countries in the region, especially in the South China Sea, will set up their own ADIZ in the future? Thank you.

STARES: Who would like to go first?

SNYDER: Well, I think we've already discussed that to some degree, but, really, a lot of it is going to depend on how the conversations that are currently going on play themselves out. I think that there is an opportunity for China to step back and take stock of the response that it's gotten to this particular move. At the same time, it's easy to imagine that this could be a first step in a vision that China wants to pursue as part of its own expanded influence in the region.

STARES: OK. Next question?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Lee Yuan (ph) with China Daily USA.

QUESTION: Hello. My question to the both (inaudible) is that, as a longtime observer of this region, are you surprised by this move from the Chinese government or why not? And apparently, this is a strategic decision made according to the Chinese interest, but it -- China did not make the decision before. What has changed? Is it -- is there a shift from (inaudible) is there a shift in the Chinese interest? Or is the situation in this region has changed?

STARES: Sheila, do you want to take that?

SMITH: Sure. I think -- you know, I think we -- again, I sort of alluded to this earlier, but I think where -- you know, the question -- I would almost want to pose that question to you. You know, I don't understand exactly why right now. I think we can only surmise. But I think it's twofold. I think it was influenced by the dynamics with -- competition with Japan and the island dispute specifically.

I don't know that Chinese interests have changed, but I think that what we've all been observing from outside of China is a kind of progression and evolution of Chinese steps, right, to assert its interests and its -- beyond its coastal waters to the first island chain and perhaps beyond. You know, we've watched the development of your legal position in the U.N. Law of the Sea. We've watched the development of your military capability and the way in which you deploy those military forces in and around the countries, both in the Northeast Asian region, as well as Southeast Asian region.

And so I think everybody is reading a China that is expressing an expansion of -- the geographical expansion of its interests, both economically and in security terms. So I think if you read that -- if that's the right way to read your country, then this is consistent with that reading of your country's ambitions.

The problem -- the challenge, I should think, that we're all trying to grapple with right now -- I think everybody was surprised, right, by the announcement, in large part because there's been a fairly consistent effort on the part of U.S. policymakers, clearly on the part of leaders in the countries that surround China in the Asia Pacific, to alert Beijing to the concerns about the way in which they're proceeding to pursue their interests in the region and how those in some ways can impinge upon the interests -- maritime and otherwise -- of your neighbors.

So I think there's been a fairly strong message or feedback that leaders in Beijing have been getting from around the region and from the United States that there's a way to express interest that's not as destabilizing, but in the absence of a political conversation about how China perceives its interests and how it seeks to pursue those interests in the region, without talking to your neighbors about them, you're creating anxiety in the region.

So I think this ADIZ announcement was just another piece of surprise -- a shock that China -- and indicated -- I think it was read as China is not interested in a consultative process of -- as it goes through this thinking about its interests in the region. And I think that's where you're getting -- that's why you're getting such a strong reaction from Washington and from others around the region.

QUESTION: Just a very quick follow-up question...

(CROSSTALK)

STARES: ... what's that?

QUESTION: Do you think move from the Chinese side will eventually serve the Chinese goal?

SMITH: I'm sorry. I guess there was a big silence so I guess I should jump in. I don't know, because I think all of us are trying to grapple with what the Chinese goals are. I think in the worst-case scenario, people imagine a China that really is just wanting to assert its power, regardless of how that affects the interests of others in the region.

If that's the worst-case scenario, I think for many of the countries around China, and certainly for the United States, I think there's still a hope that that's not what China is intending and that China wants to engage more constructively in talking about its regional interests and the way in which it wants to build stable and peaceful region in the Asia Pacific.

I think there's still many around the region that are holding out the hope that's how Beijing wants to proceed. If Beijing does want to proceed with its neighbors constructively, as its interests evolve and grow, then I think that ADIZ announcement was a setback for China.

STARES: OK. We are out of time. I want to thank you, both Sheila and Scott, for your presentations and willingness to answer questions. I want to thank everybody on the line today for attending this. And we look forward to hearing from you again. Thank you so much.

OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes today's presentation. You may disconnect your phone lines, and thank you for joining us this afternoon.

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