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China informed Seoul of air defense zone

Seoul appeared to want to avoid a dispute with Beijing over a new air defense zone in East China, according to a diplomatic source in China who said South Korea had been informed in advance.

China had told Seoul of the new zone that overlaps with South Korea's own air defense zone days before it publicly declared area, the source said.

"We had been recently informed of the Chinese side's decision to set up the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ)," the source said on the condition of anonymity, adding that the Chinese side "expressed its willingness to discuss the issue in a friendly manner."

"Our stance is that we will continue consultations with the Chinese side to prevent the issue from undermining our national interest," the source said.

China's defense ministry announced Saturday the ADIZ over the East China Sea, obligating all aircraft entering the area to report to Chinese authorities and follow their instructions.

The new zone partly overlaps with South Korea's KADIZ off the nation's southern island of Jeju.

The Chinese zone also included a South Korean-controlled submerged rock, Ieodo, that lies within the overlapping area of the economic zones of South Korea and China. Although international maritime law stipulates that a submerged rock cannot be claimed as territory by any country, South Korea effectively controls Ieodo, which is closer to it than any other country.

Japan warned Sunday of the risk of "unpredictable events" against the declaration of China's air defense zone as it included airspace over a set of islands also claimed by Japan.

In announcing the zone, which went into force at 10 a.m. Saturday and covers a wide area of the East China Sea between South Korea and Taiwan, the Chinese defense ministry said all aircraft entering the zone must report to Chinese authorities and follow their instructions.

The ministry's statement, carried by China's Xinhua news agency, said China's military "will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond to aircraft that do not cooperate in the identification or refuse to follow the instructions."

Responding to South Korea's response to the new air zone, China's foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Monday that his government hopes to resolve the issue with South Korea through "friendly consultations and negotiations."

"The ROK (South Korea) and China have no territorial dispute" over Ieodo, Qin added.

"The two sides will solve the issue through friendly consultations and negotiations," Qin said. "I also want to point out that China and the ROK are friendly neighbors. We hope, on this issue, that we can win coordination and understanding from the ROK side."

China and Japan have been locked in a bitter dispute over a set of islands in the East China Sea, which are known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan. Tension sparked in September last year when the Tokyo government purchased three of the islands from a private owner.

The conflict between the two sides over the disputed islands has reached a flashpoint, with their patrol ships playing cat-and-mouse games near the islands. Japanese fighter jets scrambled as China's military aircraft flew near Japan.

Also on Monday, China summoned Tokyo's ambassador to Beijing, Masato Kitera, over Japan's reaction to the new air defense zone, Qin said.

Qin added that his ministry "summoned the Japanese ambassador to China to express China's strong dissatisfaction and solemn protest against Japan's unreasonable hype over China's establishing an air defense identification zone."

By Kim Ji-hyun and news reports (