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(LEAD) China hopes S. Korea will comply with int'l law in expanding air zone

All Headlines 17:24 December 02, 2013

(ATTN: ADDS quote in para 4, quotes, details from para 7; CORRECTS time element in para 6; RECASTS lead para)

BEIJING, Dec. 2 (Yonhap) -- China said Monday that it hopes South Korea will comply with international law and practices in expanding its own air defense zone, without expressing explicit opposition to Seoul's move amid mounting tensions in the region.

South Korea has been planning to expand its own air defense zone after China refused to redraw its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea that encroaches upon South Korea's and includes the Seoul-controlled submerged rock of Ieodo.

"We have noticed relevant reports," China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters at a regular briefing, when asked about South Korea's plan to expand its own air defense zone.

"We want to point out that the ADIZ is an airspace set up by coastal countries beyond their territorial airspace. It is not a no-fly zone," Hong said.

"With regard to the expansion of ADIZ by the relevant country, we hope that it will comply with relevant international laws and practices," Hong said.

It was the first time that China responded to South Korea's plan to expand its own air defense zone further south to include the reef that falls in China's air defense zone, announced on Nov. 23.

Regional tension has risen sharply following China's declaration of the ADIZ that also overlaps Japan's own zone and covers islands at the center of a dispute between China and Japan.

China's state-run Global Times newspaper has said Japan is the "prime target" of the new Chinese zone that requires all aircraft entering the zone to notify Chinese authorities and follow their instructions, or they will face "defensive emergency measures."

In a defiant move, the U.S. flew a pair of B-52 bombers through the Chinese zone without notifying China last week. South Korea and Japan followed the suit.

During the Monday briefing, Hong criticized Japan for "creating friction and undermining regional stability."

"The purpose of the Chinese government's establishment of the East China Sea ADIZ is to safeguard China's sovereignty and security of territorial islands and airspace," Hong said.

"China maintains that we should enhance dialogue and communication so as to safeguard the security of flights in the overlapping areas of the two countries," Hong said.

"We urge Japan to stop making the issue on that, stop creating friction and undermining regional stability," Hong said.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has embarked a week-long trip to Japan, China and South Korea, where he is expected to try to calm tensions in Northeast Asia.


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