Over the past few years, China has steadily increased its assertiveness in the South China Sea. Its most recent claim to fishing rights over most of this territory has given other countries in the region cause to worry that China may soon try to implement an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) across the South China Sea as it tries to assert its claim out to the controversial nine-dash line. This would put Chinese jurisdiction literally just off the shores of most Southeast Asian countries.
While all the countries neighboring China’s claims are worried about this threat to their sovereignty, few have the means to challenge it, especially on their own. Indonesia is perhaps one country that could do so with the help of a substantial ally. It also has the resources to fund a navy capable of defending its territorial waters. Nonetheless, it remains to be seen if Indonesia can harness its economic potential and transform itself into a substantial regional power.
There are already serious indications that China may try to establish an ADIZ over the South China Sea in the near future. A senior officer of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy’s Military Academy, Li Jie, tested the waters on February 21, in response to a statement from an American military source saying that China plans to implement an ADIZ over the South China Sea by 2015. Li replied that the implementation was necessary for China’s long-term interests.