South Korea says it has scrambled fighter jets after Chinese and Russian warplanes made their way into the country’s air defense identification zone (KADIZ) early on Wednesday.
Two Chinese H-6 strategic bombers repeatedly entered and left the KADIZ off South Korea’s southern and northeast coasts from around 5:50am local time, Seoul’s Joint hiefs of Staff (JCS) said.
Several hours later, the Chinese planes returned from the Sea of Japan (known in the Koreas as the East Sea) in the area of Ulleung Island together with six Russian warplanes, including TU-95 strategic bombers and SU-35 fighter jets, it added.
Seoul said it deployed its F-15K fighter jets in the air as a tactical move against a potential accidental situation.
The Russian and Chinese warplanes did not violate South Korean airspace, the JCS stressed.
An air defense identification zone goes beyond the country’s airspace. Declared by each state unilaterally, it’s aimed at giving approaching planes more time to identify themselves to avoid potential incidents.
South Korean news agency Yonhap pointed out that Chinese and Russian aircraft were spotted within the KADIZ when “South Korea is pushing to strengthen its alliance with the United States amid an intensifying Sino-US rivalry, while maintaining its opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
Russia’s defense ministry has confirmed that its planes carried out a joint patrol mission with Chinese aircraft over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea on Wednesday.
Russian strategic bombers spent eight hours in the air and were “accompanied by fighter jets from foreign states during parts of their route,” it said.
“The aircraft of both countries [Russia and China] acted in strict accordance with international law. There were no violations of the airspace of foreign states,” Moscow pointed out.
During the mission, the Russian planes performed landings at Chinese airfields, while China’s bomber touched down in Russia, it added.
Moscow and Beijing have been carrying out joint aerial missions in the region as part of their military cooperation plan. South Korea also reported Chinese and Russian planes entering its air defense identification zone back in May.