Once again, a Chinese reconnaissance aircraft has set off alarms in South Korea by flying near Ieo Island, a submerged rock in the Yellow Sea that houses a South Korean research station. South Korean interceptors were mobilized to track the plane.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday that a Chinese military plane had entered South Korea's air defense domain without notice, causing the Air Force to scramble F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets to intercept and ward it off, Yonhap News Agency reported.
The plane was reportedly a Shaanxi Y-9 reconnaissance aircraft, a prop-driven transport aircraft that can be refitted for a wide variety of roles, from electronic warfare to airborne early warning. The plane entered the Korea air defense identification zone (KADIZ) at 10:03 a.m. local time and left half an hour later. After turning south toward Socotra rock, the plane re-entered the zone at 3:02 p.m. and lingered there for a much longer period of time.
"It flew for about two hours in the KADIZ out of its total five-hour flight after entering the KADIZ," a JCS official told Yonhap.
Socotra rock, also called Ieo Island in Korean, is a submerged rock that is not claimed by any nation, but since South Korea operates a science station on a platform above the underwater seamount, it takes special interest in the site, which is only 93 miles from Jeju Island.
The Mainichi noted that the Chinese craft did not violate South Korean territorial airspace, though. Instead, an air defense identification zone, undefined by treaty or international agreement, is simply an area extending outward from radar installations on a country's territory in which foreign planes approaching that territory can be identified. This was the sixth such zone crossing by Chinese planes this year, nearly all of which have been by Y-9 recon aircraft.
Complaints to the Chinese government came from the South Korean Defense Ministry as well as the Foreign Ministry. The Defense Ministry told Chinese Col. Zhou Yuming that it urged China to recognize the gravity of the situation and to take measures ensuring it wouldn't happen again.