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Posted : 2013-11-26 17:03
Updated : 2013-11-26 17:03

'Nothing can be spared for Ieodo'

By Nam Hyun-woo

Koh Choong-suk, president of the Society of Ieodo Research
Seoul should respond if Beijing poses a military threat over Ieodo, a submerged Korean-controlled rock southwest of Jeju Island, a leading expert said, Tuesday. China put Ieodo inside its "Air Defense Identification Zone" (ADIZ) on Nov. 23.

"It should be taken as a grave breach of our sovereign airspace," Koh Choong-suk, president of the Ieodo Research Society, told The Korea Times.

Koh said Korea controls Ieodo and so the country's ADIZ should cover it.

"If we accept China's ADIZ claim over Ieodo, Korean aircraft would have to get permission from China whenever they fly over the submerged rock. It was the proper decision for the government to refuse to accept it and issue a formal protest," he said.

"The government should come up with thorough measures against Chinese and Japanese claims with regard to airspace over Korean territory, as well as the ADIZ near Ieodo, taking these challenges as an opportunity to settle disputes over Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ)."

ADIZs are set up by countries at their own discretion to distinguish civilian aircraft from military jets. Though countries cannot claim jurisdiction over ADIZs, foreign aircraft have to give prior warning before they enter them. Otherwise, military conflicts could result, Koh said.

On Monday, the Ministry of National Defense said it delivered a clear message to China that Korea "cannot accept China's ADIZ," adding that, "We will fly aircraft over Ieodo as usual without informing China."

However, Koh expressed concern that the government has been nonchalant when it comes to the waters around and the airspace over Ieodo.

"Ieodo itself has a huge significance. Waters near it are part of key shipping routes through which some 90 percent of Korea's inbound and outbound shipments pass," he said.

But the fact that China claims ADIZ over Ieodo means that Korea's military will likely face some setbacks in terms of operations in such a strategically important area, he said.

"This is a critical issue that might threaten not only Korea's sovereignty, but also peace in East Asia."

Koh stressed that wrapping up stalled negotiations with China over delineating maritime boundaries is the most urgent step that should be taken to prevent further claims to Ieodo.

"It seems that the entire AIDZ dispute was ignited because of the slow-paced negotiations over the maritime boundaries near Ieodo. And China should be blamed for this."

He said the government should engage more actively in negotiations with China over AIDZs and maritime boundaries during the upcoming Korea-China strategic talks scheduled for Nov. 28.

He also pointed out that Korea's ADIZ (KADIZ) does not include airspace over Ieodo, while Japan included it in 1969.

"The government has demanded for the past two years that the two countries' ADIZs be readjusted, but nothing has changed. Since Ieodo is in Korea's EEZ, the government has to make sure that the airspace over the rock be included in the KADIZ," he said.

The KADIZ was declared in 1951, when the country was in the middle of the 1950-53 Korean War. It was set to prevent fighter jets of the now-defunct Soviet Union from entering Korean airspace.

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