| The United States is leaning toward partially accepting China`s unilateral declaration of its air defense zone. It seems that Washington thought it was more realistic to maintain regional order with a reasonable compromise than to risk a military clash with Beijing. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday after a visit to Tokyo to discuss the air defense zone issue.
During a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday, Biden called for "crisis management mechanisms" and "effective channels of communication" between Japan and China to reduce the risk of escalation. The remark suggests that Washington was taking a step back from flexing its muscles by sending B-52 bombers and nuclear aircraft carriers USS George Washington and USS Nimitz to the South China Sea right after Beijing`s declaration of the air defense zone. The U.S. government instructed U.S. private airlines to inform China in advance when they fly in China`s air defense zone.
We do not object to the U.S. seeking a proper point of compromise for the sake of regional stability. However, it is worrisome that Washington is showing an attitude of putting South Korea on the back burner while viewing the air defense zone issue a dispute between Tokyo and Beijing. During his stay in Japan, Biden never mentioned that China`s air defense zone encroached upon the space above Ieo Island, an underground rock controlled by Seoul, or that Japan`s air defense zone overlaps with Seoul`s own zone over Hong and Mara islands.
We make it clear that China`s declaration of its air defense zone is a matter of the Korean Peninsula directly linked to Seoul`s exercise of its sovereignty. It is not an issue that can be resolved through consultations only with China and Japan but a major one that the two countries and South Korea should address together. The South Korean government did a good thing when it virtually decided to declare a new air defense zone of its own that would include the aerial space over Ieo, Mara and Hong Islands. Our national pride would not allow our government to balk at exercising its legitimate sovereign rights out of fear that China might declare an air defense zone over the Yellow Sea or that Japan includes South Korea`s easternmost islet of Dokdo into its air defense zone.
There will be no procedural flaws if Seoul sufficiently explains its plan to Biden, who will visit South Korea after China, and notify neighboring countries. The latest friction among powers over China`s air defense zone is a fresh reminder that South Korea should also build its power to defend its own national interest.