By Sean Jackson
Earlier on July 23rd South Korea reported that it fired a series of warning shots at Russian military aircraft that it claims violated its airspace, in what is one the first incident of its kind between the two nations. This comes after a report that Chinese aircraft had entered South Korea’s air defense identification zone off its southern coastline earlier in the day.
According to officials in Seoul there were three Russian aircrafts that entered its airspace, including two Tu-95 bombers, and an A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft. The aircraft were initially picked up on South Korea’s air defense identification zone along its eastern coastline, before the South Korean Defense Ministry stated that the A-50 aircraft entered its airspace.
According to one ministry official, who requested to stay anonymous due to ministry rules, South Korean F-16s were quickly scrambled to the location, and fired a total of 10 flares and 80 rounds from machine guns as warning shots in an attempt to deter the aircraft.
The Defense Ministry stated that the Russian aircraft proceeded to leave the area for a total of three minutes, but subsequently returned to South Korean airspace for an additional four minutes. South Korean fighter jets responded by firing 10 more flares and 280 rounds in addition to the first encroachment.
The act comes as the first time that a foreign military aircraft has violated South Korean airspace since the end of the Korean War, according to South Korean officials.
Chung Eui-Yong, the chief of the National Security Office of South Korea responded to the encroachment on South Korean airspace to Nikolai Patrushev, the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia by suggesting their council assess the incident, stating, “We take a very grave view of the situation, and if it is repeated we will take even stronger action.”
The Russian Defense Ministry responded to the situation by denying that South Korean jets fired any warning shots, but they did fly near Russian aircraft and performed “unprofessional maneuvers” in a threatening manner.
The statement continued adding, “If the Russian pilots felt there was a security threat, they would have responded. This is not the first time that South Korean pilots tried to unsuccessfully prevent Russian aircraft from flying over the neutral waters of the Sea of Japan.”
The Japanese also responded to the incident in protest to what they say is a Russian violation of Japanese airspace, and a South Korean violation for firing the warning shots. The islands near where the incident took place are part of a Japanese claim on the island which they call Takeshima, and the South Koreans call Dokdo.
“Takeshima is Japan’s territory,” stated Foreign Minister Taro Kono, referring to the South Korean held islands.
The Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan, Yoshihide Suga said in a statement that South Korea’s actions were, “absolutely unacceptable” given Japan’s territorial claim on islands.
He also stated that Tokyo, “strictly objected to Russia and South Korea via separate diplomatic channels and strongly requested the prevention of a recurrence.”
While the occurrence comes as a surprise to all involved, there is contention surrounding the territorial boundaries, what truly happened during the scenario, and what will happen next.