An unusual incident occurred Wednesday over regional waters at a moment tensions across the Korean peninsula remain high. A group of Chinese and Russian fighter jets abruptly breached South Korea’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), causing the South Korean military to scramble jets to warn the foreign fighters off.
Seoul described that six Russian and two Chinese warplanes had approached without notice, with the south’s Joint Chiefs of Staff describing “the Chinese H-6 bombers repeatedly entered and exited the Korea Air Defense Identification Zone (KADIZ) near South Korea’s southern and northeastern coasts early Wednesday.”
Additionally, Russian and Chinese bombers were monitored flying over regional waters nearby, but not in breach of the South Korean air defense zone.
The South Korean military statement of the events, which spanned hours, was published in AFP as follows:
“Our military deployed air force fighter jets even before Chinese and Russian aircraft entered the KADIZ to take tactical measures in case of contingency,” the JCS said in a statement.
Beijing and Moscow appeared to have “engaged in a combined air exercise”, Seoul’s Yonhap news agency reported, citing unnamed “observers”.
Japan’s Joint Staff said two Chinese H-6 bombers “entered the Sea of Japan and then flew north” on Wednesday morning.
“Around the same time, what appears to be two Russian aircraft flew south over the Sea of Japan and then turned around,” it said, adding that it had scrambled jets in response.
At one point the group included four Russian TU-95 bombers, which indeed suggests that this was a planned significant joint aerial exercise.
The flights triggered at alert among Japan’s defense force as well, with Japanese fighter jets also having been dispatched over the Sea of Japan.
While such Chinese-Russian cooperation in bomber patrol flights is less common, the past year has seen stepped up naval patrols among the two countries, coming at a time Washington has put pressure on both related to the war in Ukraine.