China is ready for 'a confrontation' in the East China Sea
The Global Times newspaper is owned by the Chinese government and is often used to express the views of Chinese leadership. A recent editorial titled "Japan is the prime target for the air-defense zone tussle" published by the Global Times clearly indicated that China is not willing to concede defeat in its recent conflict over the disputed territories of the East China Sea. When the Chinese newspaper that focuses on international issues writes about a return "to the Cold War era" it should be taken seriously.
It is possible that Beijing was not ready for the flyover performed by American and Japanese warplanes which defied the newly established air-defense zone over contested territories. However, it is clear that China will do its best to prevent such embarrassing incidents in the future. The Global Times editorial clearly states that China is ready to use military force:
"It is therefore an urgent task for China to further train its air force to make full preparation for potential conflicts... If Tokyo flies its aircraft over the zone, we will be bound to send our planes to its aid-defense identification zone...We should carry out timely countermeasures without hesitation against Japan when it challenges China's newly declared air-defense zone."
The conflict between China, Japan and the US over oil-rich maritime territories and islands is similar to some of the worst cold-war stand-offs between the URSS and the US. Even though the conflict over the air-defense zones hasn't become an Asian version of the infamous Cuban Missile Crisis, the potential for escalation is tremendous.
Global Times editorialists share this view: "if the trend continues, there will likely be friction and confrontations and even tension in the air like in the Cold War era between the US and the Soviet Union". Judging by the American and Japanese actions, the trend to escalation will continue.
What happens if the Chinese air force attacks an American or Japanese plane flying through the airspace above the contested territories? The results of such actions are unpredictable. It would be better for everyone if such situations are avoided. However, no country involved in the conflict is willing to seek a purely diplomatic solution.