South Korea expanding air defense zone

South Korea’s defense ministry on Sunday said is expanding its air defense zone, according to multiple reports, which will partially overlap a Chinese zone that has heightened tensions in the region.

"We believe this will not significantly impact our relationships with China and with Japan as we try to work for peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia," defense ministry head of policy Jang Hyuk told a briefing, Reuters reported.

The Obama administration still refuses to acknowledge the validity of China’s zone, which sits over the Senkaku islands, known as Diaoyu in China, in the East China Sea.

The islands have frequently been a flashpoint between China and U.S. allies in the Pacific.

Vice President Joe Biden last week pressed Chinese President Xi Jinping, to ease the identification and notification requirements for military and civilian aircraft traveling through the contested area.

In a statement early Sunday, the State Department said South Korea was “planning to adjust” its air defense zone after consultations with the U.S. and its neighbors.

“We’ve seen the announcement today that the Republic of Korea (ROK) is planning to adjust its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). The ROK Government has conferred with the United States in advance of their decision, including in the meeting between Vice President Biden and President Park in Seoul on December 6,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

“We appreciate the ROK's efforts to pursue this action in a responsible, deliberate fashion by prior consultations with the United States and its neighbors, including Japan and China. We also appreciate the ROK’s commitment to implement this adjustment to its ADIZ in a manner consistent with international practice and respect for the freedom of overflight and other internationally lawful uses of international airspace. This approach avoids confusion for, or threats to, civilian airlines.”

“The United States has been and will remain in close consultation with our allies and partners in the region to ensure their actions contribute to greater stability, predictability, and consistency with international practices,” Psaki added.