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S. Korea, Japan conduct search, rescue drill in East China Sea

2013/12/12 16:00

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, Dec. 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and Japan carried out a joint search and rescue exercise (SAREX) in the East China Sea on Thursday, military officials said, amid escalating tension between the Northeast Asian nations over their overlapping air defense zones.

The biennial naval exercise took place in the East China Sea near the South Korea-controlled reef of Ieodo, a flashpoint of regional rivalries as it is included in the air defense zones of Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo.

Two destroyers and two maritime helicopters each from South Korea and Japan attended the search and rescue training to practice joint response to sea accidents, military officials said.

"It is the eighth South Korea-Japan SAREX held since 1999," a Navy official said. "They exercised rescuing wrecked ships and crews, and extinguishing fires on ships.

South Korea has conducted SAREX with other nations, including China and Russia, since 2003.

Although the humanitarian training was held near the air defense identification zone newly declared by China in late November, the two nations did not submit flight plans to the Chinese authority based on their principle not to recognize the zone.

Tensions have risen in Northeast Asia after Seoul on Sunday expanded its air defense zone to include the tiny, submerged rock in response to Beijing's unilateral declaration of its own zone over the spot.

It also comes under Japan's ADIZ, though Tokyo has not laid any claim to the submerged reef.

ejkim@yna.co.kr

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