|South Korea's Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok speaks during a press conference for an expanded KADIZ at the Ministry of National Defense in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 8, 2013. South Korea decided to expand its air defense identification zone (KADIZ) southward, Seoul's Defense Ministry said in a televised press briefing on Sunday. (Xinhua/Park Jin-hee)
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SEOUL, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- South Korea on Sunday announced a southward expansion of its air defense identification zone (KADIZ), encompassing submerged rocks within the overlapping exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of China and South Korea.
"The Republic of Korea (ROK) government decided to change the KADIZ range after considering the specialty of air military operations, the flight information region (FIR) range under the aviation law and international practices," Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told an emergency press briefing.
The ministry said the new zone included the nation's two southernmost islands of Marado and Hongdo, as well as the Suyan Rock of China, a submerged reef within the overlapping EEZ of China and South Korea.
The ministry 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 U.S. Air Force during the 1950-53 Korean War.
The spokesman said the new KADIZ would not restrict flights by international civilian airliners or encroach on territorial air and interests of neighboring countries.
He said the ROK government had provided sufficient explanations about the expansion to neighboring countries through defense and diplomatic channels ahead of the announcement.
"I don't think the relations between South Korea and China will deteriorate seriously because of this," Yonhap news agency quoted a South Korean official as saying.
But the official, who requested anonymity, admitted reactions from the United States, China and Japan varied.
On Seoul's attempt to expand the KADIZ, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Friday the move should be in line with its national laws and international norms.
An ADIZ is not part of a country's territorial airspace and has nothing to do with the administrative rights over sea and airspace, Hong said, adding "We are ready to maintain communication with the ROK side under the condition of equality and mutual respect."
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki later said in a statement that U.S. officials appreciated Seoul's commitment to implementing the KADIZ "in a manner consistent with international practice and respect for the freedom of overflight and other internationally lawful uses of international airspace."
When meeting with visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Friday, South Korean President Park Geun-hye explained her country's stance on the KADIZ issue, to which Biden responded vaguely, saying he "appreciated President Park's explanation and South Korea's efforts."
South Korea finalized its position on the expansion after the meeting.
At the same time, considering flight safety, a South Korean transport ministry official was quoted by Yonhap as saying that South Korea had started talking about the possibility of the country's airlines voluntarily informing Chinese authorities before entering China's ADIZ that was announced two weeks ago.
"While expanding the air defense and identification zone, we've also been discussing with related agencies about the issue of airlines giving notification to China," the official said, adding that discussions would be concluded in the next few days.
Seoul's Foreign Ministry expressed earlier its official regrets over China's ADIZ, but signs were detected in the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae that South Korea might seek to take cautious stance on the issue.
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