South Korea scrambles fighter jets as China, Russia aircraft enter air defence zone

SEOUL (REUTERS) - South Korea's military said on Friday (Nov 19) that it scrambled fighter jets after two Chinese and seven Russian warplanes intruded into its air defence identification zone during what Beijing called regular training.

The Chinese and Russian aircraft entered the north-eastern part of the Korea Air Defence Identification Zone (KADIZ) for an unspecified period before exiting, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said, adding that they did not violate its airspace.

The JCS dispatched fighter jets and air refuelling tankers as a usual step to brace for a potential contingency.

The Chinese military said in response to a query that its planes were carrying out routine drills, the JCS said.

"We assess the situation as joint Chinese and Russian military exercises but additional analysis is needed," the JCS said in a statement.

Chinese and Russian warplanes have often entered the zone in recent years amid conflicting claims over various air defence identification zones (ADIZ).

Unlike airspace, an ADIZ is usually an area where countries may unilaterally demand that foreign aircraft take special steps to identify themselves, with no international laws governing ADIZs.

Moscow does not recognise the KADIZ, while Beijing said the area is not territorial airspace and all countries should enjoy freedom of movement there.

In 2019, South Korean warplanes fired hundreds of warning shots towards Russian military aircraft when they entered South Korean airspace during a joint air patrol with China.

South Korea and Japan had scrambled jets to intercept the patrol at the time, accusing Russia and China of violating their airspace. Moscow and Beijing denied it.