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Success of expanded air defense zone depends on Seoul`s managing capabilities
DECEMBER 09, 2013 06:22  
The government officially announced a new air defense and identification zone (KADIZ) Sunday, expanding the area to airspace over South Korea-controlled island of Ieo, Mara and Hong. The new KADIZ will take effect on December 15. The decision is an appropriate measures to defend the country`s sovereignty and national interest. The country has finally corrected, for the first time in 62 years, the mismatch of the KADIZ, which was drawn by the U.S. military in 1951 during the Korean War, with its flight information region (FIR) and its Navy`s area of operation.

Previous South Korean administrations failed to address the KADIZ issue although it had the opportunity to do so when it expanded the concept of territorial waters and declared its exclusive economic zone. It is regrettable that it defensively did so after China unilaterally declared its own air defense and identification zone. However, Seoul deserves the credit for having come up with a clever idea that honors international aviation order and does not overlap with neighbors` airspace. The U.S. State Department said in a statement, "We also appreciate [South Korea뭩] commitment to implement this adjustment to its ADIZ in a manner consistent with international practice and respect for the freedom of overflight and other internationally lawful uses of international airspace."

However, Seoul should face the reality that neighboring countries are not supporting its move. It is true that the U.S. was initially reluctant to support Seoul`s attempt to change the status quo in Northeast Asia after Beijing did so. China also regrets Seoul`s move since Beijing`s target was Japan. Right-wing camps in Japan might urge its government to expand Japan`s air defense and identification zone to Dokdo, South Korea`s easternmost islets.

Seoul should cool-headedly review its capabilities. With its air defense and identification zone expanded by more than 236 kilometers southward, its Air Force needs to have the operational capabilities for identifying aircrafts entering the zone and hold it back if it violates relevant rules. Korea also needs new airbases that can support the Air Force`s long-distance operations. If Seoul proves incapable of effectively controlling the newly declared air defense zone, neighboring countries will disrespect it.

It was appropriate that the South Korean government said it would discuss with related countries measures necessary to prevent accidental military clashes and guarantee the safety of civilian flights within the KADIZ. If South Korea, China and Japan can establish a channel for cooperating over waters around Ieo Island in which all the three countries are interested, they can use it to discuss regional security issues in the future. Seoul should take the opportunity to take the lead in building military trust in the region and alleviating the so-called "Asia`s paradox," a phenomenon in which the region is becoming economically more and more interlinked but clashes over security issues are increasing.

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