South Korea on Sunday announced an expansion of its air defense zone following China’s move to establish a similar zone that has been criticized by Beijing’s neighbors.
South Korea earlier requested China to redraw its air defense zone because it partly overlaps with South Korea’s but Beijing rejected it. The U.S., Japan and other countries have also protested the Chinese zone.
Beijing said last month that all aircraft entering the vast area must identify themselves and follow Chinese instructions. U.S., Japan and South Korea have flown military reconnaissance flights in the area without notifying China in defiance of Beijing’s announcement.
The new South Korean zone includes a submerged reef that is South Korean-controlled but also claimed by China and enlarged parts of airspace that is also covered by the Chinese zone. The new South Korean zone also overlaps with parts of the Japanese air defense zone.
Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters that South Korea will discuss with neighboring countries steps to prevent accidental clashes within the South Korean zone. He said that South Korea’s zone did not infringe upon any country’s airspace and that Seoul had sufficiently explained its action to neighboring countries ahead of Sunday’s announcement.
The U.S. State Department supported South Korea, saying its approach “avoids confusion for, or threats to, civilian airlines.”
“The United States has been and will remain in close consultation with our allies and partners in the region to ensure their actions contribute to greater stability, predictability, and consistency with international practices,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.