China says SKorea's expanded air zone regrettable

BEIJING (AP) — China expressed regret on Monday over South Korea's expansion of its air defense zone, which partially overlaps a similar zone declared by Beijing.

South Korea's move followed China's announcement last month of its zone, believed aimed at claiming disputed territory. Beijing's zone has been criticized by its neighbors and the United States, which say they will not honor it.

The South Korean zone announced Sunday covers a submerged reef that South Korea controls but that China also claims, and it enlarged areas of airspace also included in the Chinese zone.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that South Korea had informed Beijing of its expanded zone, and called it "regrettable." He said China remains in contact with Seoul and hopes it will "properly handle the issue."

Beijing was criticized for raising regional tensions by unilaterally declaring its zone, which also includes a chain of disputed islands claimed by Japan.