| South Korea announced a new air defense zone Sunday bolstering its sovereignty over the South-controlled reef of Ieo Island and other islands around the Korean Peninsula. It is the first time that South Korea has adjusted its air defense and identification zone (KADIZ) since the U.S. Air Force defined the zone in March 1951 to guard against Chinese air raids during the 1950-53 Korean War.
The announcement came 15 days after China unilaterally declared its new air zone that partially overlaps South Korea`s KADIZ over waters off Jeju Island and includes Ieo Island.
"We have decided to readjust the KADIZ in consideration of the unique nature of military aviation operations, the breadth of flight information region (FIR) under the aviation law and the international aviation practices," Seoul`s National Defense Ministry said. "The new air defense and identification zone has been designed to have its southern boundary match the country`s Incheon FIR, which is commonly used internationally and does not overlap airspace of neighboring countries. The readjusted zone includes airspace over Ieo Island, Mara Island and Hong Island, all of which are South Korean territory," the ministry said.
The ministry readjusted the KADIZ south of Geoje and Jeju islands while keeping its eastern and western boundaries remain the same as before. The South Korean government plans to post the defense minister-signed KADIZ expansion plan on an official government gazette around next Sunday. The government will also seek overseas certification through its missions in foreign countries.
"The air defense and identification zone adjustment is in line with the international aviation order and international regulations," the ministry said. "It does not put restrictions on civilian flight operations or infringe upon the airspace and interests of neighboring countries."
The ministry also said, "Ahead of today`s announcement, we have offered sufficient explanations to related countries. The government will discuss with related countries measures necessary to prevent accidental military clashes and guarantee the safety of civilian flights within the KADIZ."
Regarding the issue of South Korean civilian airlines having to notify their flight plans over China`s unilaterally declared air defense zone, the ministry said, "There is no change in the (South Korean) government`s position that does not recognize China`s air defense and identification zone." However, the ministry added that relevant ministries will consider letting civilian airlines to voluntarily take measures for the safety of their flights.
Asked if South Korean military aircrafts will continue to notify Japan before entering airspace over Ieo Island, ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said, "(The military aircrafts) will continue to do so until the ministry completes its consultations with the Japanese defense ministry over the overlapping air defense zone of the two countries."
U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement released two hours after the South Korean announcement, 밯e 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." The statement is interpreted as Washington being on Seoul`s side while trying to explicitly expressing its support in consideration of China`s protest.