Posted : 2016-02-02 16:04
Updated : 2016-02-02 22:03

2 Chinese planes breach Korea's air defense zone

By Kang Seung-woo

Two Chinese military aircraft briefly intruded into the Korea Air Defense Identification Zone (KADIZ), Sunday, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), Tuesday.

"A Chinese military surveillance aircraft and an early warning plane flew into the KADIZ over Ieodo, a submerged rock in the East China Sea without prior notice," the JCS said.

Ieodo, some 150 kilometers southwest off Jeju Island, is the subject of a territorial dispute between South Korea and China.

Right after the Chinese planes entered the zone, the Korean military issued a warning to the pilots of the infiltrating aircraft and ordered ROK Air Force fighters to be on stand-by alert. The pilots reportedly identified themselves as Chinese and immediately flew out of the area.

After leaving KADIZ, the aircraft also violated Japan's air defense zone, travelling south of Tsushima Island and Japan's Air Self-Defense Force scrambled fighters in response, according to Japanese reports.

This was the first time that Chinese military planes have flown into the KADIZ without giving advance notice, triggering speculation that the flight was a show of force against Seoul's move toward accepting the deployment of an advanced U.S. missile interceptor on Korean soil.

The air defense identification zone is not a country's territorial airspace, but was established outside the territorial airspace for the purpose of identifying air traffic and to enable early warnings, by asking aircraft entering it zone to identify themselves and submit flight plans.

Japan's Ministry of Defense said that the planes did not intrude into its airspace. The JCS declined to comment on what China's intentions were regarding the flights.

However, a military official said that the incident may reflect China's concerns about talks between Seoul and Washington on the deployment of the terminal high-altitude area defense (THAAD) on the peninsula.

The Chinese government has urged Korea to avoid having THAAD deployed here, claiming that it could be a threat to China's security.

"The flight must have been carried out intentionally because there is little chance that state-of-the-art military planes could mistakenly take a wrong route," the official said.

"Through the flight, China appears to be flexing its military muscle against THAAD deployment."

Japan's Mainichi Shimbun said that China may have flown them to collect information on Japanese Aegis destroyers which are in service to target any North Korea ballistic missiles heading for Japan.

Last week, the Korean defense ministry said that the Kim Jong-un regime may soon test a long-range ballistic missile amid increased activity at its northwestern launch site.

Korea expanded the zone in 2013 to counter China's unilateral declaration of its own air defense identification zone that overlaps with KADIZ and covers Ieodo, part of Korean territory located southwest of Jeju Island.

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