South Korean and Chinese defense officials will meet Thursday for talks likely to cover the contentious issue of China's establishment of a new air defense identification zone in the East China Sea, which overlaps those of South Korea and Japan, Yonhap News Agency reported Monday.
A government official, who declined to be identified, told Yonhap that vice defense minister Baek Seung Joo will likely discuss the issue in Seoul with the deputy chief of China's People's Liberation Army.
The third round of bilateral defense strategy talks were already scheduled before China on Saturday announced the setting up of the new zone over a cluster of islands disputed between China and Japan.
The official said Seoul cannot accept Beijing's newly drawn zone as it encroaches on a 20 kilometer-by-115 km track of airspace west of Jeju Island that is already being monitored and controlled by South Korea, as well as skies over its Ieodo Ocean Research Center.
Ieodo, which is known internationally as Socotra Rock and in China as Suyan, is a submerged outcropping in waters that both South Korea and China claim as their exclusive economic zone.
The official regretted that the new bilateral issue of overlapping air defense identification zones has complicated South Korea's relations with China and fueled uncertainty in the region.
On Sunday, South Korea's Defense Ministry expressed regret over China's move, while Washington and Japan have raised strong objections.
Besides the air identification zone, Thursday's meeting is also expected to touch on setting up a military hotline, which was first broached in June, Yonhap reported.
"Initially, the meeting's topic was aimed at strengthening trust and cooperation, but more contentious issues will likely be handled in the face of the ADIZ controversy," the official was quoted as saying.