To make matters even more complicated in the East China Sea, South Korea announced on Sunday that it was also expanding its air defense identification zone for the first time in 62 years. This announcement came two weeks after China established their extended ADIZ, stirring international controversy, as it overlaps with the air zones of their neighbours, Japan and South Korea.
Seoul’s announcement of their expanded zone means that the three countries’ air defense zones now overlap over the Ieodo islands, a submerged reef believed to be rich in natural gas and mineral deposits that is currently under South Korea’s control but is being contested by China. It also serves as fuel for even more tension among the three East Asian countries, which are already involved in several territorial disputes and historical issues. South Korea’s air zone, to take effect in a week, is now more than 300 kilometers, or 186 miles, to the south. It still follows the boundaries of their current “flight information region,” which is the airspace assigned to South Korea under an agreement with the International Civil Aviation Organization, which gives them civilian air traffic control.
According to Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry, this expanded zone will not affect civilian flights whatsoever. Maj. Gen. Chang Hyok, a senior policy coordinator at the South Korean Defense Ministry, said that before announcing the expansion, they explained it to both the Chinese and Japanese governments. South Korean President Park Geun-hye also discussed the move with U.S Vice President Joe Biden who was in town last week to visit the three powerful countries in the region. The U.S State Department said it supports any move that will keep open the lines of communication between the three, especially in order to “avoid confusion for, or threats to, civilian airlines.” There has been no response yet from both China and Japan over this latest development.
[ via New York Times ]
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