MANILA - The chief of the United States’ Pacific Air Force on Wednesday raised alarm over China's possible establishment of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the disputed South China Sea.
PGen. Charles Brown Jr. said establishing an ADIZ might go against rules-based international order and impedes freedom of navigation and overflight.
“It impacts all the nations and it actually goes against… a free and open Indo-Pacific, (to) fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows…,” Brown told journalists via teleconference.
“It’s important for us to pay attention to something like this. This is probably, really goes against rules-based international order. That’s concerning not only for PACAF United States but I would say many nations in the region.”
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said Beijing would “carefully and prudently study” the possibility of establishing an ADIZ “in the light of the air security threats China faces above relevant waters of the South China Sea,” adding that every country has the right to establish an ADIZ.
Brown called out China for what he described as “increasing opportunistic activity” to “coerce its neighbors in pressing its unlawful maritime claims” while the world focused in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brown reiterated the United States is committed to upholding freedom of navigation and overflight, and the peaceful resolution of disputes.
“A free and open Indo-Pacific is for all, a safe, secure, prosperous and free region that benefits all nations, allowing all nations to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows," he said.
Brown has been confirmed to be the next chief of staff of the United States Air Force or the principal military adviser to the US Secretary of the Air Force.
China continues to claim almost the entire South China Sea despite a landmark arbitration court ruling in 2016, invalidating the historical basis for its assertion. It has since fortified with military installations the artificial islands it built in the disputed waters.
The Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam also have competing claims in the strategic waterway through which a substantial volume of international trade passes through, and rich not only of marine resources but potentially oil and natural gas as well.