China’s People’s Liberation Army-Air Force is preparing to send fighter jets to escort North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to the upcoming US-DPRK summit to be held in Singapore.
"Escorting [a head of state] with jets is one of the highest security protocols that the air force can provide," the South Korean source told South China Morning Post Thursday, adding that if China sends air assets to conduct the escort then "it may be a message directed to the US-ROK [Republic of Korea, or South Korea] alliance that China is strongly backing up the Kim regime."
“Beijing could send message to Washington and Seoul that it’s got North leader’s back,” SCMP reported quoting South Korean military sources as saying Thursday.
“Kim is also likely to fly to Singapore through China’s airspace to ensure his security, so that he gets China’s protection on his way to Singapore,” SCMP reported quoting Lee Yun-keol, who worked in a North Korean Supreme Guard Command unit – the personal bodyguard force tasked with protecting the Kim family – before defecting to South Korea in 2005.
While it is unlikely Chinese fighter jets will escort Kim’s plane all the way into Singapore because of territorial airspace rules, they will be able to travel close to the city state’s border due to Beijing’s claims to most of the South China Sea, said Yue Gang, a retired People’s Liberation Army colonel and Beijing-based military analyst.
“The fighter jets will be flying in China’s airspace and they won’t have any offensive capabilities so it will be unlikely to cause any disputes,” Yue said.