South Korea fires warning shots after it says Russia violated its airspace

South Korean military officials said a Russian bomber breached the country's airspace twice in what they said was an "unprecedented" violation.
Russian A-50 military aircraft flies near the disputed islands called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea
A Russian A-50 military aircraft flies near Dokdo in South Korea on July 23, 2019.Defense Ministry of Japan via Reuters

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By Stella Kim and Alex Johnson

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea scrambled fighter jets and fired warning shots after it said a Russian military aircraft violated its airspace Tuesday, the state-funded news agency Yonhap reported.

Quoting officials with the South Korean military's joint chiefs of staff, Yonhap said the bomber breached national airspace twice Tuesday morning, each time for about three minutes, above the East Sea near the eastern islets of Dokdo. It called the alleged violation "unprecedented."

Yonhap reported that the warplane was one of three Russian aircraft that entered South Korea's expanded Air Defense Identification Zone, or ADIZ, on Tuesday, along with two Chinese military aircraft.

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The South Korean national security adviser sent a strong message complaining about the warplane to the secretary of Russia's Security Council and vowed further action if necessary.

"We are taking this situation seriously and when such activity is repeated, we will be taking far stronger measures," said a South Korean presidential spokesperson.

The Russian defense ministry said the aircraft was in neutral waters.

Entry into national ADIZ zones are not uncommon. But at 9:09 a.m. local time Tuesday and again at 9:33 a.m., Russian aircraft violated restricted national airspace over Dokdo, Yonhap said. The plane finally left about four minutes later "following further military actions," it said.

A military official said the South Korean defense ministry planned to summon officials of the Russian and Chinese embassies later Tuesday to "lodge a protest in a grave manner," Yonhap reported.

Russia alleged earlier this month that South Korea kicked out 26 Russian nationals who arrived in the country on an overnight flight July 14 saying they had "failed to prove the purpose of their visit."

Kim reported from Seoul, Johnson reported from Los Angeles.

Elena Holodny contributed.