April 30, 2018 10:19
Another Chinese military plane flew into Korea's air defense identification zone without warning on Saturday, the day after the latest inter-Korean summit.
It approached about 74 km east of Gangneung, Gangwon Province before turning back. It was third such incursion this year. The aircraft entered the zone northwest of the submerged rocks of Ieo around 10:45 a.m. Saturday, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff here.
It is presumed to have been a Y-9 intelligence gathering aircraft capable of monitoring electronic communications. It flew first through an area between Jeju and Ieo, coming much closer to actual Korean airspace than on previous occasions.
Air defense identification zones are not territorial airspace, but by convention any planes entering them have to identify themselves to the country that claims them.
China has territorial designs on Ieo, but because the shelf is permanently under water, the International Maritime Organization does not recognize it as territory that can be claimed.
The aircraft passed over the Korea Strait and then turned north southeast of Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province around 12:10 p.m. It turned south around 12:45 p.m. and flew back along the same route and finally left the zone around 2:30 p.m.
The Korean military scrambled F-15K and other fighter jets to intercept it, which at one stage came within a few hundred meters of the Chinese aircraft.
The Korean military warned the broadcasting center of China's Northern Military Region as well as the pilot to turn back. But China replied it will continue routine training in international airspace under the international law.
There is speculation that Beijing is trying to make its military presence known ahead of mooted negotiations of a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War and a North Korea-U.S. summit next month.
"China will increase military activities to counter the U.S. in Northeast Asia," said Park Byung-kwang of the Institute for National Security Strategy. "It's highly likely that China will first put pressure on South Korea by monitoring the Korean Peninsula and carrying out military exercises nearby."
The Defense Ministry here summoned Du Nongyi, a military attaché of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul, to lodge a protest, and the Foreign Ministry summoned Chinese Ambassador Qiu Guohong.
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