PLA may normalize patrol missions in East and South China Seas
The five Chinese military planes that were alleged by Korean media to have entered the Korean Air Defense Identification Zone (KADIZ) were taking part in the annual military exercises in the area and were not targeting any country, a Chinese military spokesperson said on Monday.
This is the first time that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force has flown over the Tsushima Strait, said Shen Jinke, a spokesperson of China's PLA Air Force, in a statement released on the PLA Air Force's official Sina Weibo account.
According to a report from South Korea's Yonhap News Agency citing Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), the South Korean Air force dispatched F-15K fighters on Monday after five Chinese military aircraft entered the KADIZ that morning.
According to Seoul's JCS, two H-6K bombers, two J-11 fighter jets and a TU-154 surveillance aircraft from China entered the KADIZ after flying through the Japanese air defense identification zone.
"China's air defense identification zone in the East China Sea overlaps with that of South Korea, but the ADIZ is a non-territory," Xu Yongling, a retired PLA chief test pilot and an expert at the Chinese Society of Aeronautics and Astronautics, told the Global Times.
The Tsushima Strait, which lies between South Korea and Japan, is non-territory waters and training exercises are routinely conducted by the PLA Air Force during this time of the year. These exercises are in line with international law and practice and do not target any specific country, region or target, the statement said.
Various types of military aircraft, including H-6K strategic bombers and Su-30 fighter jets, were taking part in training exercise over open waters when they encountered interference from foreign military aircraft, the statement said.
Xu believes that the PLA Air Force will continue to normalize training and patrol missions in both the East China Sea and South China Sea.
"There is a trend that China is enlarging its freedom to conduct military operations, which is a way to gain more strategic influence in the region," Xu said.
This is the second time this month that a training mission involving bombers and fighters from PLA Air Force was made public. The previously announced mission involved a regular patrol exercise that passed over the Bashi Channel and Miyako Strait near the island of Taiwan last week.
Maintaining national security
As an important force for managing crisis and maintaining national security, the PLA Air Force is proactively taking steps to accomplish its mission for a new era, said Shen, adding that the Air Force has "flown new routes that it has never flown before and gone places it has never been to before."
Experts said the training has nothing to do with the Korean Peninsula situation.
"After South Korean President Moon Jae-in's visit to China last week, the Korean Peninsula has taken a turn for the better," Lü Chao, an expert on Korean studies at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
"China has always called for the nuclear issue to be resolved through negotiations. China certainly would not provoke nor intensify the North Korean nuclear issue," Lü said.