The Guardian (Nigeria)

Warplanes from four countries face off in S’ Korea, Japan Coast

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Wfrom four countries faced off yesterday in a chaotic and unpreceden­ted confrontat­ion above a small, disputed island off the coast of South Korea and Japan.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a statement claiming they had fired more than 300 warning shots at a Russian A-50 command and control military aircraft early yesterday morning after it had twice violated the country’s air

space, the first such incident between the countries.

Moscow furiously denied Seoul’s account of the encounter, claiming that South Korean military jets had dangerousl­y intercepte­d two of its bombers during a planned flight over neutral waters.

But in a statement yesterday afternoon, Japan’s Ministry of Defense backed up South Korea’s claims, saying the A50 had flown over the islands and that Tokyo had scrambled fighters to intercept.

In a further complicati­on, both South Korea and Japan said that two Chinese H-6 bombers had joined the Russian military aircraft on sorties through the region as well.

The confrontat­ion took place over disputed islands in the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, in the early hours of yesterday.

The two, small islands, known to the Koreans as Dokdo and to the Japanese as Takeshima, are claimed by both countries.

What triggered the confrontat­ion or why the planes were in the region is unclear, but analysts said the mission might have been designed by Russia to draw out South Korean and Japanese aircraft for intelligen­ce gathering purposes.

“This mission will have given them a comprehens­ive map of the (South Korean) national air defense system,” said Peter Layton, a former Royal Australian Air Force pilot and analyst at the Griffith Asia Institute.

The incident came during what South Korean officials have claimed was a joint Russian-chinese military exercise.

According to South Korea, two Chinese H-6 bombers passed into Seoul’s Air Defense Identifica­tion Zone (KADIZ) beginning from 6.44 a.m., joined by two Russian Tu-95 strategic bombers.

The four planes then entered the KADIZ together at about 8.40 a.m. and remained there for 24 minutes.

Airspace is defined as the area 12 nautical miles from a country’s borders, which falls entirely under its control. An ADIZ is an area in which the controllin­g country demands identifica­tion, location and control of aircraft’s direction, but doesn’t necessaril­y have any rights of engagement under internatio­nal law.

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