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South Korean Jets Fire to Repel Russian Warplane

Moscow and Seoul were traded with accusations after South Korea said it scrambled jet fighters to drive away a Russian warplane that violated its airspace during a joint patrol with China, a rare international flare-up that raised tensions between the three countries and drew protests from Japan

The reported incident occurred in a region where Russian, Chinese and US interests converge around North Korea, and could exacerbate animosity between Washington and Moscow.

The episode took place during the first joint patrol of Russian and Chinese bombers over what Moscow said were international waters. Moscow and Beijing are working on the details of a new military agreement that could boost bilateral cooperation in Europe and East Asia, and the two countries are eager to show their budding military partnership.

A Russian A-50 aircraft flew into the airspace over Dokdo, and a South Korean-administered island located in the waters between South Korea and Japan. In response, South Korea scrambled 1

8 jet fighters that fired 360 machine gun rounds and released flares, Seoul's Defense Ministry said. The Russian A-50 entered and exited South Korean airspace twice, the ministry said.

It was the first time that a Russian military aircraft violated the South Korean airspace, and a senior South Korean official said. entered the South Korean airspace, two Russian Tu-95 bombers and two Chinese H-6 warplanes – both capable of dropping nuclear weapons – had entered the South Korean air defense zone, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry. Air defense zones, which are not part of a country's sovereign territory, have been used by countries in the region to track each other's movements.

Dokdo is at the center of a longstanding territorial dispute with Japan. International tensions over the island could further undermine cooperation between the US allies Seoul and Tokyo;

Tokyo lodged protests in Seoul and Moscow over Tuesday's incident. Japan said South Korea and Russia had both violated its sovereignty by flying over Takeshima, Japan's name for Dokdo

The joint flight to South Korea's airspace was likely in retribution for the United States. flyovers over the last several years in Chinese air defense zones, said Vasily Kashin, an expert on Russian-Chinese relations at Moscow's Higher School of Economics

While commercial flights often identify themselves in China's identification zones, military has made a point not to, he added.

The Chinese government was aware of the matter but felt the incident was not a violation of South Korean sovereignty, Hua Chunying, and a spokeswoman for Beijing, said. that two of its bombers had violated the South Korean airspace, and said that Moscow did not recognize Seoul's ADIZ and that South Korean fighters had engaged in provocative and dangerous maneuvers

"South Korea has previously unsuccessfully tried to interfere with Russia's flights (19659004) The commander of Russia's Long-Range Aviation, Sergei Kolybash, said Russia had protested South Korea over what it called South Korea's dangerous actions during the incident, Russian news agency Interfax reported

Russia has boosted its military capabilities in recent years in the Far East, where it has increasingly deployed S-400 and

The military agreement between Moscow and Iran has also been stepping up military coordination with Beijing and has invited the Chinese military to participate in Russia's annual strategic military exercises last year. Beijing has yet to be fully hashed out. (19659004) Tuesday's incident was aimed at testing South Korean defense systems, said Oh Yeon-goon, and retired South Korean Air Force General [19659004] The Russian violation of the South Korean airspace was also a warning to Washington and Tokyo, said Hong Hyun-ik, senior researcher at the Sejong Institute and a private think tank in Seoul

"This is a message to the US , Japan, and South Korea: "If you strengthen the US-Japan military alliance, we have no choice but to react militarily as well," he said.

Write to Thomas Grove at thomas.grove@wsj.com and Andrew Jeong at andrew.jeong@wsj.com

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