Russia denies South Korean claims of warning shots from jets
Moscow and Seoul at odds over reported violation of airspace above disputed islands
Officials in South Korea say the country’s jets fired 360 rounds of warning shots at a Russian surveillance plane that entered its airspace yesterday.
In the first reported incident of its kind between Russia and South Korea, fighter jets were reportedly scrambled to the area to fire warning shots. Seoul defence officials said Moscow’s aircraft left the area three minutes later but returned and violated South Korean airspace again for four more minutes.
However, the claim was swiftly disputed by Moscow. Russia’s defence ministry said that South Korean fighter jets had not fired any warning shots, though it conceded that they had flown near the Russian planes in what it called “unprofessional manoeuvres” and posed a threat.
“If the Russian pilots felt there was a security threat, they would have responded,” the statement said.
Korea Times said the airspace in question “was above a group of South Korean-held islets roughly halfway between South Korea and Japan that has been a source of territorial disputes”.
The BBC’s Seoul correspondent writes that the move sees Moscow “either testing or prodding a US ally, just as Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton arrives in Seoul”.
CNN says the “chaotic and unprecedented confrontation” saw warplanes from four countries “face off,” as 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 Guardian points out that the former Soviet Union “supported North Korea and provided the country with weapons during the Korean war, which killed millions”.
South Korea's presidential office said the country’s top security adviser Chung Eui-yong urged Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Security Council of Russia, to assess the incident and take action.
"We take a very grave view of this situation and, if it is repeated, we will take even stronger action," Mr Chung said, according to South Korea's presidential office.