Despite the ongoing tensions in the region due to China’s newly-established Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), its nearest neighbours Japan and South Korea pushed through with their biennial naval drills in the East China Sea. The area where the military drills were conducted lies within the controversial defense zone, which others see as a clear statement that both countries are still not keen to follow China’s rules on this issue.
Authorities said the events were planned even before China’s November 23 announcement and so they did not see fit to inform China about their rescue drills. Neither submitted any flight plans to Chinese authorities, despite the requirement for foreign aircraft passing through the ADIZ. A military official from Seoul said that two destroyers and two helicopters from both countries took part in the drill, held near the Leodo reef, which is a submerged area controlled by South Korea but has become a source of dispute with China, since the area lies in both their exclusive economic zones.
A Japanese naval spokesman confirmed the drill occurred but emphasized that it was not organized “in reaction to the zone.” But political analysts say that pushing through with the exercise despite the issues that lie with it was a clear message to Beijing that they will continue activities around the disputed area. Scott Harold, a political scientist with the Rand Corporation, said that despite ongoing territorial and historical issues between Japan and South Korea, China’s ADIZ move has inadvertently brought the two closer. “This drill is a very low-cost and politically safe way for Japan to signal to South Korea that, while they have disputes on other issues, on this one they could work together,” he said.
[ via South China Morning Post ]