China and Japan really need to have a “hot line” for communication on these issues. That being said, I a hot line would not likely have helped in this situation, as I fully believed this was a message to Taiwan and Japan. Japan needs to use the leverage it now has over China to settle this issue in a favorable way. Just as relations seemed to be going well…then again I’m not sure if the top levels of the CCP approved this or not. There is a lot of internal wrangling at Zhongnanhai.
China regards Taiwan as one of its provinces.
Japan and China remain locked in a dispute over natural gas resources under the seabed.
It remains unknown whether the Chinese sorties had any connection to political wrangling between Tokyo and Beijing on this issue.
Clearly, though, the strategic value for China of the area around the gas field cannot be underestimated.
Hong-6 bombers stationed at the Huaining air force base in Anhui province made 20 sorties to the area on Sept. 11 and 23 the following day, each time taking almost an identical air route.
Japan’s Air Defense Identification Zone extends to waters west of the gas field as part of the nation’s overall national security interests.
Because of this, F4 fighter jets scrambled from Naha base in Okinawa Prefecture four times on Sept. 11 and on eight occasions the next day.
The Japanese pilots came within just 5 kilometers of the Chinese planes, according to a Taiwanese military source.
The waters around the Chunxiao gas field are used by U.S. aircraft carriers stationed at Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, and other areas of Japan when they embark for Taiwan.
“Hong-6 bombers can carry long-range air-to-sea missiles,” said Kensuke Ebata, a critic on military issues. “So it is possible for the bombers to attack vessels at sea. Personally, I think the bomber pilots were undergoing a training exercise under the scenario of blocking the arrival of U.S. aircraft carriers in Taiwan in the event of an emergency situation there.
“The flights may also have been aimed at trying to contain U.S. forces following large-scale maneuvers near Guam in August under a scenario that the United States was at war with China.”
China’s military regards areas off Okinawa to the Philippines, including Taiwan, as the so-called first line of islands.
Based on that view, long-term military planners have sought to make the waters around the Chunxiao gas field part of China’s “inland seas.” In recent years, Chinese military forces have been intensifying their activities in the East China Sea.
In May 2007, a fleet of Chinese warships departed for the Pacific Ocean via waters close to Okinawa.
“Even in the neighborhood of the Taiwan Strait (located between Taiwan and China), there has been a sharp increase in the presence of Chinese military aircraft,” said a Taiwanese military source.
“The aircraft are not only engaged in training but also showing off their abilities. China clearly is trying to show its neighbors that it regards these waters as Chinese territory.” (IHT/Asahi: January 1,2008)