Seoul: S. Korean jets fire warning shots at Russian warplane, twice

Seoul, South Korea — 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 incidents between the countries. It happened again shortly thereafter, the officials said.

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.

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The Russian plane left the area but 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.

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon performs over Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, on Sept. 23, 2016.
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon performs over Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, on Sept. 23, 2016 Getty

A correspondent for the Reuters news agency, Josh Smith, tweeted that, “S. Korean fighter jets fired about 10 flares and about 80 machine gun rounds during the first violation, and 10 flares and about 280 machine gun rounds during the second violation.” He cited South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Reuters reports that the Russian plane was an A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft and the jets South Korean responded with were U.S.-made F-15 and F-16 fighter jets.

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

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.

There was no immediate comment from Moscow or Beijing.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it plans to summon Russian and Chinese Embassy officials later Tuesday to register formal protests. Reuters said South Korea’s top security adviser lodged a strong objection with Moscow and warned Seoul would take tougher action if it happens again.

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