6 Russian military aircraft intrude into S. Korea’s air defense zone

October 22, 2019

Six Russian military aircraft violated South Korea’s air defense identification zone on Tuesday, prompting the Air Force to scramble fighter jets to turn them back, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

An A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft, three SU-27 fighter jets and two TU-95 bombers entered the Korean Air Defense Identification Zone (KADIZ) four times between 9:23 a.m. and 2:44 p.m. without prior notice and stayed in the zone for about four hours in total before leaving at around 3:13 p.m., according to the JCS.

The warplanes breached the KADIZ over waters surrounding the Korean Peninsula, including the country’s easternmost islets of Dokdo and the island of Ulleung in the East Sea; above the southern city of Pohang and the island of Jeju and areas in the Yellow Sea.

But none of the aircraft violated South Korea’s territorial airspace, the JCS said.

Upon detecting the first plane entering KADIZ over Ulleung Island, the South Korean Air Force deployed some 10 fighters, including F-15K and KF-16 jets, which “had taken due measures” of tracking the aircraft and sending warning messages to force them out, according to the JCS.

The latest violation brought the total number of entries by Russian aircraft into KADIZ so far this year to 20.

Following the incident, the defense ministry lodged a strong complaint with Russia, and urged Russia to come up with measures to prevent recurrences, according to ministry officials.

The issue is also expected to be high on the agenda during a meeting of their joint military committee set to take place on Wednesday and Thursday in Seoul, they added.

Later in the day, Seoul’s foreign ministry called in a counselor from the Russian Embassy to express regret over the KADIZ breach and call for prevention of a recurrence.

Moscow, however, denied any violations by its military airplanes, saying that its long-range aviation pilots regularly perform flights “in strict compliance with” international rules.

According to Russia’s defense ministry, two Russian TU-95MS strategic missile-carrying bombers performed “planned flights over the neutral waters,” escorted by Russian Su-35S fighter jets and A-50 long-range radar surveillance plane.

It also said the bombers were shadowed by a pair of F-15 and F-16 fighters of South Korea and F-2 fighters of Japan at some stages of the flight route.

On July 23, a Russian A-50 aircraft intruded into South Korea’s territorial airspace over Dokdo twice, leading the Air Force to fire hundreds of warning shots.

The intrusion came shortly after two other Russian aircraft and two Chinese military aircraft breached the KADIZ between Dokdo and Ulleung Island several times in unusual joint air maneuvers between the two countries.

In August, two Russian TU-142 patrol planes also violated the KADIZ over the East Sea.

In order to prevent such cases, South Korea and Russia have been pushing to set up a military hotline between their air forces to exchange their flight information, according to the JCS.

The two sides began discussing the matter in 2004 and wrapped up consultations on the draft of the envisioned MOU in November last year, it added.

The air defense zone was first drawn in 1951 by the U.S. Air Force during the 1950-53 Korean War to prevent air clashes between nations surrounding the Korean Peninsula. Last year, Seoul expanded it to counter China’s unilateral decision to expand its own to cover a reef and other islands off the southern coast.

The air zone is not part of a country’s air space and not bound by international law.