South Korea scrambles jets after Chinese, Russian warplanes approach

A file photo of a South Korean fighter jet. South Korea said six Russian and two Chinese warplanes entered its air defence zone without notice. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL - South Korea’s military said it scrambled fighter jets on Wednesday as six Russian and two Chinese warplanes entered its air defence zone without notice.

Japan’s military also said it had scrambled jets in response to flights over the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, by Russian and Chinese aircraft.

Russian and Chinese strategic warplanes, including Tupolev-95 long-range “Bear” bombers, conducted joint patrols over the Sea of Japan and East China Sea, Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Wednesday.

The ministry said that “at certain stages of the route, strategic missile carriers were accompanied by fighters of foreign states”.

“An air group consisting of Tu-95MC strategic missile carriers of the Russian Aerospace Forces and strategic bombers XIAN H-6K of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Air Force carried out air patrols over the waters of the Japanese and East China Seas,” the ministry said.

It said Russian and Chinese aircraft “acted strictly in accordance with the provisions of international law” and that no foreign airspace was violated.

It was the first time that Russian and Chinese military aircraft landed in each other’s airfields as part of a joint air patrol, the ministry said.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the Chinese H-6 bombers repeatedly entered and exited the Korea Air Defence Identification Zone (KADIZ) near South Korea’s southern and north-eastern coasts early on Wednesday.

All the warplanes eventually left the zone and none violated South Korea’s airspace, Seoul said.

An ADIZ is an area wider than a country’s airspace in which it tries to control aircraft for security reasons, but the concept is not defined in any international treaty.

“Our military deployed air force fighter jets even before Chinese and Russian aircraft entered the KADIZ to take tactical measures in case of contingency,” the JCS said in a statement.

Japan’s Joint Staff said two Chinese H-6 bombers “entered the Sea of Japan and then flew north” on Wednesday morning, adding that it had scrambled jets in response.

The incident comes as Washington pushes China, Pyongyang’s most important ally, to use its influence to help rein in North Korea, which has conducted a record-breaking blitz of missile launches this year.

Chinese President Xi Jinping recently told Mr Kim Jong Un that he was willing to work with the North Korean leader for “world peace”.

Pyongyang earlier this month fired an intercontinental ballistic missile, in one of its most powerful tests yet, declaring it would meet perceived US nuclear threats with nukes of its own.

The United States has accused Beijing and Moscow of protecting Pyongyang from further punishment.

The two countries in May vetoed a US-led effort to tighten sanctions on North Korea in response to the North’s earlier missile launches. AFP, REUTERS

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