On August 24, 2022, YCAPS hosted Lt. Col. Aita Moriki of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), who is currently assigned to Japan’s National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS), to present on a paper he wrote concerning the circumstances and implications of a flight of PLA Air Force (PLAAF) aircraft near Malaysia in 2021. The webinar was moderated by Brian Waidelich, vice president of YCAPS, and joined by over 70 participants.
During his presentation, Lt. Col. Aita presented an alternative analysis of a May 2021 flight of 16 PLAAF transport aircraft near Malaysia, an event which had been portrayed in some media outlets as a political message sent from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur. Drawing on both his professional experience as a pilot and PLA writings on air force training and operations, Lt. Col. Aita argued that the flight near Malaysia was tied to the development of a capability to project power and conduct airborne operations against islands in the South China Sea that China does not currently control.
During the Q&A session that followed the presentation, Lt. Col. Aita responded to a number of questions from the moderator and audience members, including questions on topics such as whether certain military actions may be more oriented toward political signaling or capability development, what obligations a state may have to notify its neighbors in advance of a major exercise or training activity, and what sorts of additional forces and capabilities the PLAAF may need to integrate in a hypothetical future island-seizure operation in the South China Sea.
-by Sam Baron for YCAPS