December 19, 2017 10:26
Five Chinese military aircraft entered Korea's and Japan's air defense identification zones on Monday morning without warning, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The unexpected intrusion prompted the Air Force to scramble 10 F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets, while Japan deployed a score of F-15J fighter planes. Around 30 Korean, Japanese and Chinese fighter planes were in the air simultaneously around Ieo and Jeju islands and Japan's Tsushima Island for almost four hours.
Diplomatic and military sources wondered why China would resort to coat-trailing that could be perceived as a threat so soon after President Moon Jae-in's state visit to Beijing.
The Korean military detected unidentified aircraft approaching the KADIZ southwest of the submerged rocks of Ieo, which China wants to claim for itself, around 10 a.m. and scrambled F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets.
"We have confirmed that they are Chinese military planes through a hotline with our Chinese counterparts," the Joint Chiefs of Staff here said.
They were two H-6 bombers, two J-11 fighter jets and one Tu-154 reconnaissance plane. The H-6 is China's main strategic bomber. They entered airspace that overlaps with Korean and Japanese zones and buzzed about for almost four hours before turning back to China at around 2:00 p.m.
This is the second time this year that Chinese aircraft have strayed into the two zones. In January, 12 Chinese fighter planes entered the Korean zone, while eight of the aircraft straddled both zones to around 300 km northeast of Dokdo before heading back to China.
Air Defense Identification Zones are not officially sovereign air space, but foreign aircraft entering another country's zone must notify the host before passing through. But China has unilaterally declared that a section of the Korean zone near Ieo overlaps with its own.
According to the JCS, when asked about the purpose of its intrusion, China said it was merely a military exercise and it did not intend to invade Korean airspace.
Last year, Chinese military aircraft entered the Korean zone 59 times, but never in such numbers.
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