South Korean fighters have fired warning shots, after two Russian TU-95MS bombers and one of its Beriev A-50 AEW&C aircraft, and two Chinese planes “violated’ the country’s airspace by flying over its east coast on Tuesday.
Around 6.44am local time, the Chinese planes reportedly flew over East sea and stayed there for about 30 minutes.
“It later joined two Russian bombers and flew southward together over the East sea. The four encroached upon the defence zone at around 8:40am for a 25-minute flight,” an officer from the Korean joint chiefs of staff was quoted as saying by Yonhap.
According to the South’s Defence Ministry, three Russian military planes initially entered South Korea’s air defence identification zone off its east coast before one of them entered the country’s territorial sky.
“The Russian planes had entered the South Korean zone with two Chinese military planes. But it wasn’t immediately known whether the two countries deliberately did so,” a South Korean official was quoted as saying by the media.
One of the bombers left the area above the easternmost islets of Dokdo, disputed islands controlled by South Korea but claimed by Japan. The aircraft then returned and violated the airspace again, the Seoul’s defence ministry said.
“The South Korean military took tactical action including dropping flares and firing a warning shot,” a defence ministry statement said. Some reports said that the South Korean fighters scrambled to warn the Russian and Chinese airraft were F-15K and F-16K jets.
Seoul’s Defence Ministry said it will summon Russian and Chinese embassy officials later on Tuesday to register formal protests.
Meanwhile, Russia has denied South Korea’s allegations.
"Russian TU-95MS bombers did not deviate from the plan, and were in compliance with international regulations. [The aircraft] were moving at a distance of over 25 kilometers [15.5 miles] from the Dokdo islands (Takeshima) and were not violating the South Korean airspace," Russian MoD said in a statement.
The Defence Ministry said that two South Korean F-16 fighters carried out "non-professional" manoeuvres, traversing the course of Russian strategic missile carriers and creating a threat to their security. South Korean fighters fired no warning shots at the Russian aircraft, ministry added.