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S. Korea’s claim on warning shot firings disputed by Russia

Published:Wednesday | July 24, 2019 | 12:00 AM
This image released by Joint Staff, Ministry of Defence, shows Russian A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft flying near the Korean-controlled island called Takeshima in Japan yesterday. Japan has protested to Russia for allegedly violating Japanese airspace and to South Korea for firing warning shots there.


South Korean air force jets fired 360 rounds of warning shots Tuesday after a Russian military plane twice violated South Korea’s airspace off the country’s east coast, Seoul officials said in an announcement that was quickly disputed by Russia.

South Korea said three Russian military planes – two Tu-95 bombers and one A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft – entered the South’s air defence identification zone off its east coast before the A-50 intruded in South Korean airspace. Russia said later that two of its Tu-95MS bombers were on a routine flight over neutral waters and didn’t enter South Korean territory.

According to South Korean government accounts, an unspecified number of South Korean fighter jets, including F-16s, scrambled to the area and fired 10 flares and 80 rounds from machine guns as warning shots.

Seoul defence officials said the Russian reconnaissance aircraft left the area three minutes later, but later returned and violated South Korean airspace again for four minutes. The officials said the South Korean fighter jets then fired 10 flares and 280 rounds from machine guns as warning shots.

South Korea said it was the first time a foreign military plane had violated South Korean airspace since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

South Korea’s foreign ministry and the joint chiefs of staff summoned Russia’s acting ambassador and its defence attache to protest.

Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement that its planes did not enter South Korean airspace. It also said South Korean fighter jets didn’t fire any warning shots, though it said they flew near the Russian planes in what it called “unprofessional manoeuvres” and posed a threat.

“If the Russian pilots felt there was a security threat, they would have responded,” the statement said.

South Korea’s presidential national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, told top Russian security official Nikolai Patrushev that South Korea views Russia’s airspace violation “very seriously” and will take “much stronger” measures if a similar incident occurs, according to South Korea’s presidential office.