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(2nd LD) S. Korea expresses regrets over China's ADIZ

All Headlines 15:35 November 25, 2013

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 5, 9, ADDS last 5 paras)

SEOUL, Nov. 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's foreign ministry on Monday expressed formal regrets over China's new air defense identification zones (ADIZ) that overlap airspace regulated by Seoul.

"The ministry called China's Minister Counselor Chen Hai and expressed its reservations over the unilateral drawing of the ADIZ," said an insider.

He said the conveyed message raised issue with China's new lines that conflict with those already drawn by Seoul.

In a similar move, the defense ministry called the Beijing's military attache to Seoul to express its views on the latest development.

The protests come after the Beijing announcement over the weekend that it has redrawn the air identification zone over the East China Sea. The move seems mostly to exert Beijing's claims over contested islands between China and Japan. The Senkaku islands, presently under Japanese jurisdiction, are also claimed by Beijing, which refers to the territory as the Diaoyu islands.

Related to China's ADIZ, a source at the defense ministry said earlier in the day that Seoul wants to deal with the overlapping issue on airspace identification through dialogue.

The official source, who wanted to remain anonymous, said Vice Defense Minister Baek Seung-joo will likely discuss the contentious matter with the deputy chief of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), Wang Guanzhong, at the third meeting of bilateral defense strategy talks that will take place on Thursday in Seoul.

"Seoul plans to outline its views on the controversy," the source stressed.

He pointed out that Seoul cannot accept China's newly drawn ADIZ that encroaches on airspace west of Jeju Island and over the Ieodo Ocean Research Center, an unmanned station built atop a outcropping of rock 149 kilometers south of Mara Island.

"The government will try to work out the problem at hand in a manner that does not compromise our national interest," the official said.

Near Jeju, China is claiming air control over a 20-by-115-kilometer tract of sky that is already being monitored and controlled by South Korea for its defense.

Besides the air identification zone, the two sides are expected to touch on setting up a military hotline, which was first broached in June, during the upcoming meeting.

"Initially, the meeting's topic was aimed at strengthening trust and cooperation, but more contentious issues will likely be handled in the face of the ADIZ controversy," said the insider.

He pointed out that the problem is complicating South Korea's relations with China and fueling regional uncertainty between countries such as the United States and Japan.

Both Washington and Japan raised objections to the new lines, claiming they will fuel tensions in the region.

Meanwhile, others in government said that the latest controversy only underlines the need to resolve the sea demarcation line between South Korea and China. The two sides held 14 meetings since 1996 on the issue, but no understanding has yet to be reached.

"Ieodo isn't an island and located in international water so any jurisdiction issue involves waters surrounding the underwater rock formation," an expert said.

He said because of the relative short distance between South Korea and China, the exclusive economic zones of the two sides effectively overlap with each other. The nearest Chinese territory lies 247 kilometers away.

The official added that because the leaders of the two countries called for early resumption of talks during the June summit, such a meeting can take place, although there is no assurance that a settlement will be reached.

Seoul has insisted on the media line that called for the drawing of a demarcations line based on distance from shore, while the Chinese have insisted on factoring in population living along the coast and length of the shoreline facing the body of water.


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