Fighters of the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) fired hundreds of warning shots at a Russian military aircraft that entered South Korean airspace earlier today, according to local defence officials. South Korean accounts state that the Russian aircraft violated their airspace, a point that is denied by Moscow, who in turn have accused the South Korean pilots of recklessness.
An official at the South Korean Ministry of National Defense in Seoul said the incident was the first time a Russian military aircraft had violated South Korean airspace.
In the first incident, a pair of Russian bombers and two Chinese bombers entered the Korea Air Defence Identification Zone (KADIZ) together early on Tuesday, according to the defence ministry in Seoul. ROKAF aircraft intercepted the Russian bombers but did not communicate with them, the Russian MoD confirmed.
Separately, a Russian Aerospace Forces A-50 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) twice violated South Korean airspace over Dokdo – an island occupied by South Korea and also claimed by Japan – according to the South Korean military. The Mainstay was met by ROKAF F-15 and F-16 fighters that had been scrambled from their bases. The South Korean jets fired around 360 rounds of ammunition during the incident – warning shots intended to ward off the A-50, accompanied by infrared flares. The Russian aircraft initially left South Korean airspace but then re-entered it some 20 minutes later, prompting the South Koreans to fire more warning shots.
Russia’s defence ministry denied that its strategic bombers had violated South Korean airspace. Furthermore, Moscow said this was not the first time that ROKAF pilots had interfered with a Russian military flight over neutral waters.
China’s foreign ministry said it does not regard the KADIZ as territorial airspace and considers that all countries enjoy freedom of movement in it.