China on Monday said it regretted the decision taken by South Korea to expand its air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea.
Seoul announced on Sunday that it was advancing the country’s ADIZ – referred to as KADIZ – southwards to partially overlap with a similar zone Beijing declared on November 23.
South Korea and Japan were among the first countries to protest China’s new ADIZ and Seoul’s decision to expand its own is being seen as retaliation.
Regional tension had risen after Beijing set up the maritime zone over the East China Sea that includes islands disputed with Japan.
In response to the expansion of the KADIZ, Beijing expressed regret on Monday but added that both countries were maintaining communication over the issue.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei made the remarks when asked questions about the KADIZ at regular press briefing.
He said the KADIZ encompasses submerged rocks within the overlapping exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and China.
Hong said China and the ROK have maintained communication over the establishment of China's ADIZ and the expansion of the KADIZ.
Both foreign and defence ministries have stated their position to the ROK side the first time and demanded the ROK side cautiously and properly handle the issues, he said.
“China is ready to maintain communication with the ROK side in line with the principle of equality and mutual respect,” he said.
The Korean defence ministry, according to Chinese state media, has said its eastern and western boundaries remained the same as before, and that the new zone would take effect from Dec. 15.
It marks the first change in more than six decades to the KADIZ, which was drawn in 1951 by the US. Air Force during the 1950-53 Korean War, state media said.
The ministry said the new zone included the nation's two southernmost islands of Marado and Hongdo, as well as the Suyan Rock, a submerged reef within the overlapping EEZ of China and the ROK.
Hong reiterated that an ADIZ is not part of a country's territorial airspace and has nothing to do with the administrative rights over sea and airspace. It is an international airspace demarcated outside the territorial airspace for the purpose of identification and early warning.
The Suyan Rock is an isolated underwater reef and is not a territory, thus territorial claims don't apply, he said, adding that it is a consensus between China and the ROK.
The Suyan Rock is located within the overlapping EEZ of China and the ROK, he said, noting that relevant issues can only be addressed through maritime boundary delimitation between the two countries in the East China Sea.