With much of the United States’ defense resources focused on the Middle East, many Americans can tend to forget the tensions between the US and Asia, specifically China and Russia. While there’s been peace between us for the past few decades, it wasn’t that long ago that communist troops from China were fighting our own in the Korean Peninsula, or that the former USSR was threatening to plunge the planet into thermonuclear war. Yet the nightly news is dominated by stories of the Arab Spring and continuing unrest in the Middle East. While justified, these reports leave many citizens without the realization that there are still ongoing tensions between the US and China, Russia, or a smattering of other nations we’re not actively fighting.
But Chinese was back in the news over the Thanksgiving weekend, causing some Americans to react with surprise that an issue could arise, and concern about ongoing transpacific relations. The issue was regarding a non-combat flight of two unarmed American B-52 bombers through a Chinese maritime air defense zone. This zone was established by China earlier last week, generating concern in neighboring countries as well as the United States. With the creation of this zone which covers airspace between Japan, South Korea, China and Taiwan, foreign aircraft (military, civil, and commercial) are mandated to declare their presence before entering the zone, as well as comply with any Chinese instructions. This mandate typically wouldn’t raise eyebrows- nations are allowed to protect their sovereignty, including their airspace. But in this case, China’s defense zone is, according to the US pilots who flew through it last week, over international waters, meaning they were not under any command to ask permission to fly through it. China obviously disagrees, and did reportedly track the US aircraft for the nearly two and a half hours the American aircraft were inside the Chinese air defense zone.
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