Russia’s defence ministry says two strategic bombers have patrolled neutral waters over the Sea of Japan, Russian news agencies reported, as South Korea said the aircraft had entered its air defence identification zone.
The flight lasted about seven hours and the Russian planes were accompanied by South Korean F-16s at some stages of the route, Russian media cited the ministry as saying on Tuesday.
The South Korean military didn’t confirm Russian media reports that it scrambled F-16 fighter jets in response to two Russian Tu-95 bombers escorted by a Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jet flying over waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
South Korea’s military said that Russian warplanes entered its air defence identification zone (ADIZ) and it had taken usual “tactical action” in response – a term that usually refers to the scrambling of fighter jets to chase away unauthorised foreign aircraft.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the move was aimed at preventing accidental clashes along its air defence identification zone, without providing more details.
The incident came a day after South Korea and the United States began their biggest combined military training in years in a response to North Korea’s nuclear threat. The Ulchi Freedom Shield exercises, which continue through September 1, involve aircraft, warships and tanks and potentially tens of thousands of troops.
Russian and Chinese warplanes have often entered South Korea’s ADIZ in recent years amid conflicting claims over various zones.
Unlike airspace, an ADIZ is usually an area in which countries may unilaterally demand that foreign aircraft take special steps to identify themselves, with no international laws governing an ADIZ.
Russia does not recognise South Korea’s ADIZ. China has said the area is not territorial airspace and all countries should enjoy freedom of movement there.
In 2019, South Korea said its fighter jets fired hundreds of warning shots towards a Russian military plane that it said twice violated its national airspace off its eastern coast. Russia denied that its aircraft entered South Korea’s airspace.