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South Korea’s new air defence zone includes an area already claimed by both China and Japan [Al Jazeera]
|South Korea is set to expand its air defence zone to partially overlap China’s recently enlarged airspace, South Korean officials have said.
Seoul’s defence ministry said on Sunday that the expansion, which covers an extra 66,480 square kilometres, would include two territorial islands to its south, and a submerged rock also claimed by China.
The move would not infringe on the sovereignty of neighbouring countries, said officials in the South Korean capital, and had been discussed in advance with Washington.
Aviation authorities in South Korea say the air zone expansion is in line with international standards, reported Al Jazeera’s Stella Kim from Seoul.
“The South Korean government is confident that this won’t lead to any military clashes or become an international diplomatic issue,” she said.
“The expansion includes a set of islands at the centre of a territorial argument between Beijing and Tokyo, so there wil be a seven-day grace period before the new zone is enacted.”
Air defence identification
The new South Korean air zone in the East China Sea overlaps a similar area, first declared by Japan in 1969, and recently claimed by China.
“This is a very direct response to China’s decision to expand,” said Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett in Seoul.
Aircraft intending to fly through the area will now be required to inform aviation authorities of all three nations.
South Korea’s air defence identification zone was first declared in 1951 during the Korean War to counter potential air intervention by the Chinese. At the time, the more remote islands and submerged rocks were not carefully considered, say analysts.
The new expansion covers the two islands Marado, which is south of Jeju island, and Hongdo, which is south of Geoje island and is also covered by Japan’s air defence zone.
Further south, Seoul’s expansion also includes the submerged rock named Ieodo, which is home to a strategically located research station operated by South Korea.
China has also claimed that Ieodo is within its exclusive economic zone.
China says the establishment of the zone is aimed at “safeguarding state sovereignty” [Reuters]
|Tokyo has branded as “very dangerous” a move by Beijing to set up an “air defence identification zone” over an area that includes disputed islands controlled by Japan, but claimed by China.
In a move that raised the temperature of a bitter territorial row between the two countries, China’s defence ministry said that it was setting up the zone to “guard against potential air threats”.
It later scrambled air force jets, including fighter planes, to carry out a patrol mission on Saturday in the newly-established zone.
The outline of the zone, which is shown on the Chinese defence ministry website and a state media Twitter account , covers a wide area of the East China Sea between South Korea and Taiwan that includes airspace above the Tokyo-controlled islands known as the Senkaku to Japan and Diaoyu to China.
Junichi Ihara, who heads the Japanese foreign ministry’s Asian and Oceanian affairs bureau, lodged a protest by phone to Han Zhiqiang, minister at the Chinese Embassy in Japan, the ministry said in a statement.
He said Japan could “never accept the zone set up by China” as it includes the Tokyo-controlled islands, the statement said.
Ihara also told the Chinese side that such a move by Beijing would “escalate” current bilateral tensions over the islands.
Akitaka Saiki, Japan’s vice foreign minister, plans to summon the Chinese ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua, as early as possible on Monday and state Japan’s position on the matter, Kyodo news agency reported.
A Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman, Yang Yujun, said the establishment of the zone, which became operational on Saturday morning, was aimed at “safeguarding state sovereignty, territorial land and air security, and maintaining flight order”.
“It is a necessary measure in China’s exercise of self-defence rights. It has no particular target and will not affect the freedom of flight in relevant airspace,” Yang said in a statement on the ministry’s website Saturday.
“China will take timely measures to deal with air threats and unidentified flying objects from the sea, including identification, monitoring, control and disposition, and it hopes all relevant sides positively cooperate and jointly maintain flying safety,” he said.
Along with the creation of the zone in the East China Sea, the defence ministry released a set of aircraft identification rules that must be followed by all planes entering the area, under penalty of intervention by the military.
Sino-Japanese relations have remained at a low-ebb for more than a year as a result of the dispute, which was revived when Japan nationalised three of the archipelago’s five islands in September 2012.