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Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ)

A map released by state-run Xinhua News Agency, which marks the newly established Air Defense Identification Zone, which includes disputed areas in the East China Sea. Map: Xinhua

China on Thursday ruled out establishing an air defence zone along the India-China border like it recently did over the disputed islands in the East China Sea, saying such zones are created only in coastal areas beyond territorial airspace. The US and Japanese governments expressed concerns over Chinese posture in the disputed area.

What distinguishes an ADIZ from a country’s national airspace ? The technical definitions lie in the small print scattered through complex treaties and national laws and regulations. Here’s a rough lexical guide to help make sense of the key terms:

AIRSPACE – Under international law, a country’s sovereign airspace extends to the outer limits of its territorial waters, 12 nautical miles from its coastline. Most countries require all foreign military aircraft to obtain permission to enter their airspace and reserve the right to take military action, including shooting them down, if they do not.

AIR DEFENSE IDENTIFICATION ZONE (ADIZ) - An ADIZ has no basis in international law and is not overseen by any international organization. So definitions and rules vary between different countries. Typically such zones extend well beyond a country’s airspace to give its military time to respond to potentially hostile incoming aircraft.

The ADIZ is not a Chinese invention. The United States, Japan and some 20 other countries declared such zones in their airspace long time ago. Many of those countries require foreign military aircraft to identify themselves and their flight plans on entering their ADIZ. They will often intercept and escort foreign military aircraft in their ADIZ but will usually not repel them or force them to land unless they consider them a threat. The U.S. says it only applies ADIZ procedures to foreign aircraft intending to enter its airspace.

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