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By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, Dec. 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is preparing to increase patrols and surveillance in its newly established air defense identification zone (ADIZ) as part of follow-up measures to cover the area expanded southward, military officials said Monday.
The move follows Seoul's announcement of its new air defense zone on Sunday to counter China's unilateral decision to expand its own to cover a reef and other islands off the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula.
The new zone is designed to have its southern boundary match the country's broader flight information region (FIR), and includes airspace over the Seoul-controlled reef of Ieodo and the other southern islands of Marado and Hongdo.
As the KADIZ is set to take effect starting from Dec. 15, the military plans to increase routine patrols around the region to implement the new rule.
"We have enhanced procedures for surveillance and the verification process in the newly established KADIZ," a senior defense ministry official said, requesting anonymity. "We will consult with related countries to prevent clashes if necessary."
As the new rule covers a wider area in southern waters of the Korean Peninsula, the Navy is considering stepping up maritime patrols near the region.
South Korean warships have regularly patrolled near Ieodo two or three times a week, but they have increased surveillance near the area since China's Nov. 23 announcement of its ADIZ that covers the South-controlled Ieodo.
The Air Force is also preparing verification measures for foreign aircraft that enter KADIZ, while placing fighter jets on alert for potential clashes.
Any foreign aircraft passing through the zone will be required to identify themselves 15-30 minutes in advance, maintain communication and file flight plans after the rule takes effect on Dec. 15, according to officials.
While the ADIZ rule is under authority of the defense minister, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman is entrusted with implementing the rule.
As part of efforts to promptly send South Korean fighter jets to the southern region, Seoul plans to acquire four aerial refueling tankers to extend operational capabilities.
Currently, a KF-16 can conduct missions only for 20 minutes above Ieodo, which can be extended up to 80 minutes above the area.
It is the first change in more than six decades to KADIZ, which was drawn in 1951 by the U.S. Air Force during the 1950-53 Korean War.
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