On December 4, 2007, during a meeting with a visiting U.S. delegation headed by U.S. Representative Eni Faleomavaega (D-AS), chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia, The Pacific, and the Global Environment in the U.S. House of Representatives, Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian asserted that China was planning to design an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) within the Taiwan Strait (Liberty Times, December 6, 2007). President Chen alleged that Beijing planned to submit the proposal to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and at the same time, Beijing planned to inaugurate a new air route on the Chinese side of the median of the Taiwan Straits.
According to Dr. Joseph Wu—Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the United States—in early December, the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC) issued a press release stating that the Central Military Commission and the State Council had approved the route and flights would run some 4.2 nautical miles (7.8km) west of the centerline (Taipei Times, December 20, 2007).
The Taiwanese government claims that since approval for the bid had to be attained from the Central Military Commission, which has authority over China’s civilian aviation and airspace, China’s bid to the ICAO to operate on Taiwan’s side of the Straits can be construed as a militarily provocative move, as it also gives them the ability to deny access to foreign aircraft in the area.
China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang repeatedly denied any knowledge of China’s plan to establish an ADIZ within the Taiwan Straits at press briefings (Ta Kung Pao, December 11, 2007).
In related news, citing Taiwanese military sources that Japanese government sources later confirmed, Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun revealed that Chinese Hong-6 bombers from the Huaining air force base in Anhui province conducted military maneuvers in areas of the East China Sea in September 2007, the route covered areas that are jointly enclosed by the Taiwan Straits Air Defense Identification Zone and the Japan Air Defense Identification Zone. The Hong-6 bombers reportedly made 20 sorties to the area on September 11 and 23, which forced Japanese F4 fighter jets based at Naha base in Okinawa Prefecture to respond by conducting a total of 12 sorties along the routes (Asahi Shimbun, January 2).
In an interview with Kensuke Ebata, a subject matter expert on defense and military affairs in Tokyo and member of the Japanese Security Export Control Committee, Asahi Shimbun reported Ebata as saying:
“Hong-6 bombers can carry long-range air-to-sea missiles … 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,” he added (Asahi Shimbun, January 2).