South Koreans fire warning shots at Russian jet
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South Koreans fire warning shots at Russian jet

Confrontation comes after military aircraft breaches American ally’s territorial sky

Russian Su-25 ground attack jets prepare to land after return from Syria at a Russian air base in Primorsko-Akhtarsk, southern Russia, on March 16, 2016. (Olga Balashova/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)
Russian Su-25 ground attack jets prepare to land after return from Syria at a Russian air base in Primorsko-Akhtarsk, southern Russia, on March 16, 2016. (Olga Balashova/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

South Korean jets fired warning shots after a Russian military plane violated South Korea’s airspace on Tuesday, Seoul officials said, in the first such incident between the countries.

Three Russian military planes initially entered South Korea’s air defense identification zone off its east coast before one of them entered the country’s territorial sky, the South’s Defense Ministry said.

South Korean fighter jets then scrambled to the area to fire warning shots, a ministry official said, requesting anonymity due to department rules.

The Russian plane left the area but it returned and violated the South Korean airspace again later Tuesday, the ministry official said. He said the South Korean fighter jets fired warning shots again. Each time, the Russian plane didn’t return fire, the official said.

It was the first time a Russian military plane violated South Korean airspace, according to South Korean officials.

President Reuven Rivlin visiting the Korean Demilitarized Zone between South and North Korea, July 17, 2019. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The airspace the Russian plane violated was above a group of South Korean-held islets roughly halfway between South Korea and Japan that has been a source of territorial disputes between them. Russia isn’t a party in those disputes.

The three Russian planes had entered the South Korean air defense identification zone with two Chinese military planes. But it wasn’t immediately known whether the two countries deliberately did so, according to the South Korean official.

Before their joint flights with the Russian planes, the Chinese planes entered South Korea’s air defense identification zone off its southwest coast earlier Tuesday, according to the South Korean official. Chinese planes have occasionally entered South Korea’s air defense identification zone in recent years.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it plans to summon Russian and Chinese embassy officials later Tuesday to register formal protests.

In this photo from March 30, 2015, South Korean Marines march after landing on the beach during the US-South Korea during the annual joint military exercise Foal Eagle between South Korea and the United States in Pohang, South Korea. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)

Russia has a history of disruptive aircraft maneuvers. According to Stars and Stripes, Russian military jets have begun routinely flying close to NATO territory in the Baltics with their transponders shut down, leading to a higher rate of intercepts.

Last year, Russian jets buzzed a British warship off the coast of occupied Crimea in an act described by the British defense secretary as “brazen Russian hostility.”

Late last month, Israeli officials accused Moscow of responsibility for ongoing disruptions to the satellite navigation systems of airplanes flying around Ben Gurion International Airport. The issue has not yet caused any accidents or safety incidents, but has a “significant impact on all aspects of operating a plane from the cockpit, as well as on managing air traffic,” according to the Airports Authority.

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