On Monday, Charles Brown Jr., a U.S. Air Force general and commander of Pacific Air Forces, announced that the United States has suspended strategic bomber flights over the Korean Peninsula to help support diplomatic efforts to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea. At the time, a Chinese military aircraft entered the Korea Air Defense Identification Zone (Kadiz) without notice. It flew over the Yellow Sea, the peninsula and the East Sea.
We are dumbfounded at China's brazen infiltration of our airspace. China's reconnaissance aircraft almost crisscrossed our airspace for five hours despite the ROK Air Force's repeated warnings to get out. China's aerial violation is not a first. It has entered the Kadiz seven times this year alone. Moreover, the spy airplane refused to respond to our demands to get out of the zone. We cannot accept China's arrogant attitudes defying a neighbor's requests.
China's frequent aerial violations are most likely aimed at collecting sensitive security information involving South Korea, Japan and the United States and checking their preparedness for emergencies. In broader terms, however, the flights are apparently intended to show off China's military prowess and expand the scope of its influence. To put it differently, Beijing wants to change the West Sea into a sort of inland sea and extend its influence to the Korean Peninsula, the East Sea and beyond.
The fact that China's entry into the Kadiz always starts from the airspace above the Ieodo islet — a submerged rock located 149 kilometers (93 miles) to the south of Jeju Island — foreshows a fierce battle over fixing maritime boundaries between South Korea and China. The islet has served as the foundation of South Korea's Ieodo Ocean Research Station for the last 15 years.
Thanks to China's growing strength, it seeks to extend the realm of its power. But it does not make sense for the giant to try to find a bigger coat to fit its body. Kicking off his second five-year term last year, China's President Xi Jinping vowed to build a community of common destiny for humans, an axis of his diplomatic platforms. How could Xi realize that ambitious goal if he habitually flexes China's muscles in the region?
Our government must prepare tougher measures to deal with such infiltrations. So far, it has taken customary steps such as issuing warnings, scrambling aircrafts and summoning a military official from the Chinese Embassy. The time has come for the government to end China's repeated violations once and for all.
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