Posted December. 19, 2017 19:07,
Updated December. 19, 2017 19:11
Five Chinese military planes were confirmed to have entered the Korean Air Defense Identification Zone (KADIZ) from the southwest of Ieo Island, stayed for one to three hours, and flew back to China on last Tuesday. The aircraft were said to have included two H-6 bombers, two J-11 fighter jets, which have been deployed since 2007, and a TU-154 reconnaissance plane. Given that the three aircraft were deployed side by side, it is likely that the purpose of the operation was to conduct a combat training rather than reconnaissance.
In response, the Korean Air Force dispatched F-15K and F-16 fighters in an emergency sortie. China said over a hotline that the operation was part of a routine exercise, and it had no intention of infringing Korea’s territorial airspace. But H-6K bombers are China’s key military capability for long-range strikes and are equipped with an air-to-surface missile with the range of up to 3,000 kilometers that can hit territorial and surface targets in West Pacific, the military base in Guam and Japan. Japan also mobilized more than 10 fighter jets from its Air Self Defense Force to closely monitor the Chinese planes, stoking military tensions between the three countries.
The region in question, the KADIZ overlaps the air defense zones of China and Japan. In November 2013, China unilaterally expanded its own zone to cover the airspace over Ieo Island and other islands off the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula, and to counter the Chinese move, Korea announced the expansion of the KADIZ in December of the same year. An air defense identification zone is airspace that a country establishes to identify and control possibly hostile aircraft in the interests of national security, but is clearly different from territorial airspace and is not defined by any international treaty. It is an international practice for a country to offer prior notification if it wants to fly over the air defense zone of other country. Japan entered the KADIZ as many as 444 times last year, but always with prior notification. China, however, breached the KADIZ without prior notice 59 times last year alone. The latest incident was the first since this January, but it was right after the bilateral summit between the two heads of state. This clearly shows how much China looks down on its neighbor.
The Chinese bombers and fighters stopped at the overlapping air defense identification zone of the three countries, but its reconnaissance kept flying to enter Japan’s air defense identification zone (JADIZ) and pass through the Tsushima Island to the waters near Kanazawa on the Honshu Island. If China truly meant to reconnoiter Japan, there would have been no reason to hold China back from giving prior notice to Korea. Thus, the latest operation of the Chinese military has betrayed its intention to weaken the KADIZ under the name of reconnaissance.
Korea and China have maintained the strategic cooperative relationship through which they mutually discuss not only economy and culture but also politics, military and security. However, the bilateral relationship has been in a serious row with Korea deciding to host the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system and China responding with unofficial economic retaliations. President Moon Jae-in’s visit to China and meeting with his counterpart Xi Jinping last Thursday were a rather desperate move to restore the sour relations. Then now is the time that China should show some sincerity. China should immediately wake up from an anachronistic dream where it still thinks of Korea as its subject country.