S. Korea informs U.S., China, Japan of airspace expansion

BEIJING, Dec. 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea informed the United States, China and Japan of the expansion of its own air defense zone that overlaps a larger part of that of China and Japan prior to its formal announcement, a Seoul diplomatic source said Monday, in an apparent effort to minimize potential diplomatic disputes.

"We had held sufficient consultations with the U.S., Chinese and Japanese sides, separately, last week about the expansion of our own Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ)," the source said on the condition of anonymity.

"As for the Chinese side, in particular, we told that the expansion is a fair decision in line with international law and norms. Thus, we delivered our position that China needs to understand our decision," the source said.

South Korea announced Sunday an expanded defense zone over the East China Sea to counter China's unilateral decision to expand its own, bolstering Seoul's sovereignty over a reef and other islands off the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula.

The U.S. has already confirmed that it held "prior consultations" with South Korea.

Earlier in the day, a Chinese military expert said South Korea's expansion of its ADIZ is unlikely to cause a dispute between Seoul and Beijing because the two nations could resolve differences through dialogue.

"The two countries can sit down to resolve possible differences on the issue," Yin Zhuo, a senior Chinese naval expert, told the official newspaper China Daily.

Both Seoul and Beijing understand that neither China's Nov. 23 declaration of its air defense zone nor South Korea's Sunday announcement is an offensive measure, Yin said.

"The possibility of a major conflict between Beijing and Seoul is low," Yin was quoted as saying in the daily.

There has been no official response from China over South Korea's expansion of its air defense zone that includes the airspace over the Seoul-controlled reef of Ieodo and other southern islands of Marado and Hongdo.

Two days before the South Korean announcement, China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters that South Korea's expansion of "its ADIZ should comply with international law and conventions."

"China is ready to stay in communication with the ROK (South Korea) based on the principle of equality and mutual respect," Hong said.

Regional tensions have risen sharply following China's Nov. 23 declaration of its ADIZ that overlaps those of South Korea and Japan. It requires all aircraft entering the zone to notify Chinese authorities and follow their instructions or else face "defensive emergency measures."

South Korea, Japan and the United States have flown jets in defiance of the new Chinese air defense zone, which is mainly viewed as an attempt to bolster Beijing's claim over a set of islands at the center of a bitter territorial dispute with Japan. The islands are called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

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