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(LEAD) Russian aircraft violates S. Korea's airspace above East Sea twice

12:22 July 23, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS more details throughout, photo)

SEOUL, July 23 (Yonhap) -- A Russian warplane violated South Korea's airspace above the East Sea twice Tuesday, prompting the Air Force to scramble fighter jets and fire warning shots, military officers here said.

The airplane trespassed in the territorial sky above the East Sea near South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo earlier in the day for two brief periods in breach of international treaties, according to officers from the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

This image captured from Japan's defense ministry website shows a Russian bomber that violated its airspace on June 20, 2019. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

After entering Korea's air defense identification zone (KADIZ), the Russian aircraft flew further into the airspace at 9:09 a.m.

In response, the Air Force deployed multiple jets, including F-15Ks and F-16Ks, to track the plane. They fired flares and warning shots after sending messages in accordance with operation manuals. The Russian aircraft then left the airspace after three minutes and left KADIZ at around 9:15 a.m.

At around 9:33 a.m., however, it again violated South Korean airspace after entering KADIZ. Following further military actions, the aircraft left the airspace four minutes later. It finally flew out of the air defense zone at 9:56 a.m.

It is the first time that a Russian warplane has violated South Korean airspace, though KADIZ violations by Russian aircraft have occurred occasionally.

The incident followed a separate KADIZ violation case by two other Russian and two Chinese aircraft earlier in the day.

At around 6:44 a.m., two Chinese warplanes flew into KADIZ above the East Sea and stayed for about 30 minutes. About 36 minutes later, they re-entered the air defense zone and stayed there about 30 minutes before leaving the zone at 8:20 a.m.

The Chinese aircraft then joined two Russian bombers and flew southward together over the East Sea. The four encroached upon KADIZ at around 8:40 a.m. for a 25-minute flight, according to the JCS officer.

The purpose of their joint flight and intentions behind the series of breaches were not immediately clear.

The defense ministry plans to call in officials of the Russian and Chinese embassies later in the day and lodge a protest in a grave manner, the officer noted.

An air defense identification zone is an area of the skies declared by a state for the early identification and location of foreign planes approaching its territorial airspace to prevent infiltration by foreign planes and accidental clashes. It is not defined in any international law or treaty.

In the previous such incident, two Russian military aircraft violated KADIZ on June 20 and stayed in the zone for about a half-hour.

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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