Defense chief calls for ‘strict adherence’ to rules on military jets’ accidental encounters

BANGKOK-- South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo on Monday called on countries in the region to strictly abide by international regulations on unplanned encounters involving military aircraft and vessels so as to better guarantee regional peace.

The remarks, made in an address during the 6th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defense Ministers' Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) in Bangkok, appear to be aimed at Japan, China and Russia, which have been involved in such incidents around the Korean Peninsula.

"When we exercise strict adherence to international law and relevant regulations like the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) and Guidelines for Air Military Encounters (GAME), we will be able to establish an order of peace within the region in a sound manner," Jeong said.

Adopted in 2014 by 25 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including South Korea, the U.S., China and Russia, CUES stipulates a framework of safety procedures and maneuvering instructions for naval ships and aircraft to follow during unplanned encounters at sea.

GAME, adopted during last year's ADMM meeting, stipulates guidelines on unplanned mid-air encounters between member nations' military aircraft with the goal of reducing the risk of accidental clashes and easing tensions in the air.

"To prevent conflicts of interest in the security field and mediate friction, a clear establishment of standards for discussion and participation is crucial," he added.

South Korea and Japan experienced a dip in their military ties last December after Japan claimed that a South Korean destroyer locked targeting radar on one of its surveillance planes. But South Korea dismissed the claims, saying the plane needlessly approached the ship, which was on a normal rescue mission.

South Korea has also seen a growing number of Chinese and Russian aircraft entering its air defense identification zone, or KADIZ, without prior notice. In July, a Russian aircraft even intruded into South Korea's territorial airspace over its easternmost islets of Dokdo twice, leading the Air Force to fire hundreds of warning shots.

As ways to better ensure peace and security in the region, the minister also stressed the need to activate consultative bodies for policy discussions as well as continued efforts to enhance partnership among regional players.

Speaking of Seoul's efforts for peace involving North Korea, Jeong asked for international support as "many challenges still lie ahead."

Pointing to the decision South Korea and the U.S. announced on Sunday to postpone their combined air exercises scheduled for this month, Jeong called on North Korea to refrain from raising tensions and respond to their goodwill.

"Tension and friction on the Korean Peninsula will pose serious threats to regional security, and it is a task that must be resolved for peace and prosperity," Jeong said, stressing that "trust and commitment between the leaders of the two Koreas and the U.S. remain unchanged."

The minister also asked for the participating countries' backing for Seoul's plan to turn the Demilitarized Zone bisecting the two Koreas into a international zone of peace.

The two-day multilateral event on regional security, set to run until Monday, brings together high-level defense officials from the ASEAN countries and eight other states -- South Korea, the United States, Japan, China, Russia, Australia, New Zealand and India.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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