SEOUL – South Korean jets fired warning shots after a Russian military plane twice violated South Korea’s airspace on Tuesday, a spokesperson of the Defense Ministry in Seoul told EFE, although the claim was denied by Russian authorities.
The Director of National Security Office, Chung Eui-yong, has sent a formal complaint to the Secretary of the National Security Council of the Russian Federation, Nikolai Patrushev, the South Korean presidential office said.
Chung has told Patrushev that Seoul is “taking the incident very seriously” and warned that “if such an act is repeated, (South Korea) will take a far stronger measure.”
The first incursion by the plane was made around 9:09 am local time in the Sea of Japan (called the East Sea by the Koreans), near the Dokdo islets, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Seoul scrambled fighter jets in response to the violation of its air defense identification zone (ADIZ).
South Korea deployed several F-15 and F-16 fighters that fired flares and warning shots after issuing warning messages, following the South Korean protocol for such a scenario.
The Russian aircraft left South Korea’s airspace and the ADIZ within minutes but committed another similar violation around fifteen minutes later.
After a similar response from South Korea, the Russian plane left the airspace within four minutes and took another 20 to leave the ADIZ.
It is the first time that a Russian military aircraft has violated South Korean sovereign airspace, though Russian planes have entered Korea’s ADIZ in the past.
In fact, this incident occurred just hours after four other military aircrafts – two Chinese and two Russian planes – entered South Korea’s air defense identification zone around the Sea of Japan without permission.
A country’s ADIZ usually extends past its territory in order to allow more time to identify or respond to potentially hostile aircraft.
While the objective of these flights is not being delved into at the moment, the South Korean defense ministry intends to summon the military attaches of the Russian and Chinese embassies in Seoul later during the day to file a strong protest.
Meanwhile, Russia has denied having violated South Korea’s airspace, claiming its planes were flying over neutral waters of the Sea of Japan, more than 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) away from Dodko islets, and conforming to international laws.
The Russian defense ministry said in a statement that two of their Tu-95MS strategic bombers were performing a routine flight over neutral waters in the region when two South Korean F-16s approached them and “conducted unprofessional maneuvers, crossing the course of the Russian aircraft and jeopardizing their safety,” according to Russian state-run news agency TASS.
“The South Korean pilots did not establish communications with the crews of Tu-95MS, fired flares and then the F-16s conducted another maneuver, retreating away from the Russian planes,” the statement added.
It underlined that it was not the first time that South Korean pilots tried to disrupt the Russian planes over the neutral waters of the Sea of Japan, citing what it called an arbitrarily imposed “air defense identification zone.”
“These zones are not envisioned by the international rules and, therefore, are not recognized by Russia, which has been repeatedly communicated to the South Korean side,” the ministry said.
Moreover, it also refuted South Korea’s version of having fired warning shots to ward off the Russian bombers.
“No warning shots were fired by South Korea’s fighter jets. If the Russian pilots felt a security threat, the response would follow quickly,” the ministry said.