SEOUL: South Korea declared on Sunday an expanded air defense zone that overlaps with one recently announced by China and covers a submerged rock disputed by the two countries as regional tensions soar over competing territorial claims.
Seoul’s defense ministry said its new zone, which will take effect on December 15, would cover Ieodo—a submerged rock in waters off its south coast, which China calls Suyan.
The airspace above the Seoul-controlled rock—long a source of tension between South Korea and China—is also covered by Beijing’s zone.
China last month unilaterally declared an Air Defens Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, asking foreign planes to identify themselves.
Seoul had notified its neighbors in advance about its new air zone—the first revision in its air defense area in 62 years, he added.
The zone was expanded about 66,480 square kilometers (25,670 square miles)—or about two thirds of the size of the country—in waters off its south coast, a defense ministry spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the US State Department announced on Sunday that South Korea has conferred with the United States” ahead of expanding their air defense zone in a disputed area overlapping one recently announced by China.
The South Korean government “has conferred with the United States in advance of their decision,” US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a communique, adding that US officials “appreciate” Seoul’s “efforts to pursue this action in a responsible, deliberate fashion by prior consultations with the United States and its neighbors, including Japan and China.”
Tension has been high since China declared its new air defense zone, which its neighbors fear is part of a push to assert its growing military might and back up its claims in territorial disputes.
The ADIZ also covers areas over the Tokyo-controlled islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China that have been at the center of a simmering territorial row.
Tokyo and Seoul have rejected Beijing’s demand that all aircraft traversing the zone file flight plans and ID details.
The US flew two US B-52 bombers through the area without complying, followed by similar moves by Japan and South Korea whose planes also entered the zone without notifying China.