China has rejected South Korea’s demand to redraw its newly declared air defense zone. South Korea raised the issue as a priority during the annual defense strategy talks with China in Seoul on November 28.
China’s new zone overlaps South Korea’s own air defense zone, in a move certain to escalate the row between the two countries and fuel rising tensions in the region.
Vice Defense Minister Baek Seung-joo expressed strong regret to his counterpart Wang Guanzhong, deputy chief of the general staff of China’s military, demanding Beijing to take corrective measures. Ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok confirmed the situation by saying, “China’s response was that it decided not to accept the demand.”
Baek also told China that South Korea is also considering expanding its own air defense zone in order to “safeguard our national interests,” pointing out that countries in the region should hold discussions to promote trust and reduce tensions.
“We made it clear that we cannot recognize the Chinese unilateral measure and that our jurisdiction over waters around Ieodo won’t be affected regardless of the setting of air defense identification zones by neighboring countries,” the spokesperson.
The Chinese zone also overlaps the Japanese defense zone. The Japanese zone includes a set of islands known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan, which are at the center of territorial disputes between Beijing and Tokyo.
The Chinese declaration has also raised concerns of a clash with the United States, since the zone includes Japanese islands that the United States has used as firing ranges. The US sent a clear message to China that it won’t recognize the declared zone by flying a pair of B-52 bombers through the zone on November 26.
Despite the Chinese declaration, South Korea has also been continuing routine patrol flights over Ieodo without notifying Beijing. Instead, the government will consider expanding the zone to include Ieodo, about 149 kilometers southwest of Korea’s southernmost island of Marado, according to Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin on November 26.