Tensions rising

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Tensions rising

Korean Air Force fighter jets on Monday fired warning shots at a Russian military aircraft that penetrated the national airspace over the Dokdo islets in the East Sea. According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, F-15Ks and KF-16s gave a warning before firing 360 rounds at the Russian A-50 aircraft equipped with the Airborne Warning and Control System (Awacs) after it entered the airspace twice Tuesday morning.

Even more alarming were Russian and Chinese bombers’ violating the Korea Air Defense Identification Zone (Kadiz) earlier in the morning. The provocations by China and Russia are guaranteed to set off loud alarms in Northeast Asia.

The aircraft that entered the Kadiz include one Awacs plane from Russia, two Tu-95 bombers also from Russia and two H-6 bombers from China. The Russian Awacs aircraft temporarily escaped the Kadiz after the warning shots and reentered the zone later probably to see how our Air Force would react. Chinese bombers flew northward after passing the Kadiz over the Ieodo islet on the South Sea and joined the Russian aircraft for a joint drill on the East Sea. China even sent a warship to the waters to the south of the islet when its bombers flew over it, which suggests a comprehensive joint drill around the peninsula.

Our ministry of foreign affairs called in Russian and Chinese diplomats in Seoul and strongly complained. National Security Adviser Chung Ui-yong delivered a strong message to Nikolai Patrushev, director of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), warning of an even stronger action if such cases are repeated. Fortunately, Korean and Japanese military aircraft reacted to the provocation in a concerted way. While our fighter jets aggressively confronted the infiltration of our airspace, their Japanese counterparts stayed on alert to see if the Russian and Chinese planes would violate Japan’s airspace.

The incidents took place amid growing tensions from the North Korean nuclear threat, a standoff between the United States and Iran in the Strait of Hormuz and the Sino-U.S. trade war. China and Russia were likely trying to show off their military power while testing the joint defense system among Seoul, Washington and Tokyo.

The government must face the grim reality. The incident reminds us of the need to maintain close security cooperation with Japan despite the conflict over trade and historical issues, as well as with the United States. Above all, China and Russia must stop ratcheting up tension in the region.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 24, Page 30
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