Tokyo has no gripe with Seoul's expanded ADIZ

Zone poses no threat to territory, unlike China's Senkaku gambit

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Tokyo has accepted Seoul’s expanded air defense identification zone in the East China Sea, Japanese officials said Monday, noting that unlike China’s abruptly declared ADIZ, South Korea’s won’t infringe on the freedom of flight in airspace over the high seas under international law.

Part of South Korea’s expanded ADIZ now overlaps Japan’s in the East China Sea. But Tokyo has not complained to Seoul, apparently so Japan and South Korea can maintain united opposition to the ADIZ China declared last month in areas covering the contested Japanese-held Senkaku islets, as well as a reef under the South’s control.

Unlike China’s air zone, South Korea’s zone does not cover airspace over territory or sea areas effectively controlled by Japan, and Seoul will not impose new obligations on Japanese airlines, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

In addition, unlike Beijing, Seoul also notified Tokyo in advance of its plan to expand its ADIZ, and the two sides already have well-established communications channels to avoid an accidental clash of military aircraft in the zone, Suga said.

“We don’t think (South Korea’s ADIZ) will cause any immediate problems with us,” Suga told a news conference. “It is our understanding that South Korea made its decision to counter China’s ADIZ.”

China’s zone, declared unilaterally on Nov. 23, covers Ieodo, a disputed rock off South Korea’s southern coast that is under ROK control but also claimed by China, which calls the reef Suyan.

The airspace above the rock is also covered by Japan’s ADIZ.

Japan’s ADIZ, however, does not extend to airspace over contested islets in the Sea of Japan midway between Honshu and South Korea. Once controlled by Japan, the rocky outcroppings, which Tokyo refers to as Takeshima and regards as part of Shimane Prefecture, have been held for decades by South Korea, which calls them Dokdo.

Since the islets are controlled by South Korea, Japan’s ADIZ does not cover them. This is true of other areas claimed by but not held by Japan, particularly the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido. “We believe the territorial dispute (over Dokdo/Takeshima) should be peacefully resolved through diplomatic talks,” a Foreign Ministry official said Monday in Tokyo.

In general, Japan has not extended its ADIZ over areas that it has failed to effectively control despite its territorial claims. For example, Japan’s ADIZ does not cover the airspace over the Northern Territories islands off Hokkaido, which Tokyo has claimed but have been effectively controlled by Russia for decades

A nation’s territorial airspace covers its land and nearby waters, extending 22.2 km from its coast. But an ADIZ can be extend hundreds of kilometers beyond the territorial water limit to monitor approaching foreign aircraft. China’s new ADIZ covers the Senkakus and overlaps Japan’s ADIZ.

Japan took initial control of the Senkakus in 1895, and set up an ADIZ covering the islets in 1969. In the 1970s, China began claiming the islets, which it calls Diaoyu, as did Taiwan, which calls them Tiaoyutai.

Tokyo has demanded Beijing rescind its ADIZ.

An ADIZ is set up under a given nation’s domestic laws as a defensive perimeter to monitor incursions by suspicious aircraft. But under international law, unlike territorial airspace, a country’s sovereign rights may not be accorded much weight with an ADIZ.

But Beijing is demanding that all foreign aircraft entering China’s ADIZ submit flight plans and is threatening to take “defensive emergency measures” against those that defy its rules.

U.S. military and Self-Defense Forces aircraft continue to fly through the zone without complying with China’s demands.

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