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Who owns the airspace? The new Chinese "ADIZ" and what it means

(Please note, this matter is not currently being litigated in Australia)

The recent imposition of an “air defence identification zone” (ADIZ) by China over an area of the East China Sea has prompted international alarm and confusion.  ADIZs are plentiful the world over even though they're not strictly expected or founded in international air law or the law of the sea. However, the Chinese ADIZ is slightly different in that it purports to apply to all aircraft in its vicinity, rather than just those intending to fly into Chinese territorial airspace.  It is, arguably, being used to extend the character of territorial sovereignty to a disputed chain of islands which is disputed with Japan – a country which also covers the islands with a (traditional) ADIZ – rather than serve as an early warning system for legitimate defence purposes.

This has prompted the linked article which sets out some of the potential dangers to civilian aviation of such classes of airspace in times of political tension and unrest, and describes cases which have, through a combination of confusion, tensions, and innocent mix-up, resulted in military force being used against airliners, killing innocent passengers and crew members.  The article also seeks to contextualise the position of ADIZs more broadly in international law and examines dispute resolutions mechanisms which could be brought to bear by members of the International Civil Aviation Organisation under the International Convention on Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention) in addition to diplomacy.

The article is not intended to advance any particular political view and is merely presented to recall for all involved the lessons which have been learned in the last few decades in relation to disputed or specially demarcated areas of airspace.

Click to view the article

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: December 4, 2013.

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