Russia’s acting Ambassador to South Korea Maksim Volkov on Tuesday expressed deep regret over Russian military aircraft’s intrusion into South Korean airspace. According to Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday, the Russian ambassador said intrusion into South Korean territorial airspace by a Russian plane was not intentional and could have resulted from a system error. Moscow later denied the claim, however. Russia’s defense ministry denied violating any airspace and one commander even called South Korea’s warning shots as “disturbance in the air.”
Cheong Wa Dae spoke about Russia’s expression of regret one day later as the main opposition Liberty Korea Party criticized the presidential office for not convening a National Security Council (NSC) meeting after the incident. The real intention of an unofficial apology made by a Russian naval attaché is questionable since it is completely different from Russia’s official response. South Korea’s defense ministry also thinks that the intrusion was intentional. Russia’s two-faced attitude is problematic but what is more serious and risky is Seoul’s convenient and rash perception of the situation. It remains to be seen whether Russia changes its stance on the matter but violation of our airspace is not something that can be overlooked easily.
China and Russia entered into the Korea Air Defense Identification Zone (KADIZ) without prior notice and justified their joint military exercise carried out above the East Sea. Russia’s defense ministry said it carried out its first long-range joint air patrol in the Asia Pacific region with China. Reports were out that Russia and China are planning to sign an agreement for their joint military exercise and cooperation on military technology. This suggests that Chinese and Russian military aircrafts will frequently enter into the KADIZ and fly over the East Sea. If the East Sea becomes the stage for their show of force, the region could plunge into a place for a new Cold War confrontation.
This serious security situation in the region calls for extra vigilance from Seoul and reminds us once again of the importance of South Korea-U.S. alliance, a solid foundation for the defense of the Korean Peninsula. China and Russia are attempting to target a crack in trilateral cooperation among South Korea, the U.S. and Japan created by the South Korea-Japan trade disputes. In particular, it is clear that Russia intended to aggravate the territorial dispute between South Korea and Japan by flying over the Dokdo islands, prompting Japan to preposterously claim sovereignty over Dokdo.
Visiting U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton met with South Korean high-ranking officials on Wednesday. The two sides agreed to collaborate closely on responding to similar provocations from China and Russia. They also discussed dispatching South Korean troops to the Strait of Hormuz. At a time when there could be a change in security framework in Northeast Asia, our alliance with the U.S. is our valuable asset that cannot be taken lightly. This is why we should do our utmost to further strengthen South Korea-U.S. alliance.