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Asian confrontation: Warplanes from four countries face off

Asian confrontation: Warplanes from four countries face-off: Above a small, disputed island off the coast of South Korea and Japan, the four countries warplanes faced off in a chaotic and unprecedented confrontation on Tuesday According to the statement issued by South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, they had fired more than 300 warning shots at a Russian A-50 command and control military aircraft early Tuesday morning after it had twice violated the country’s airspace, the first such incident between the countries.

GANGWON-DO, SOUTH KOREA – SEPTEMBER 18: In this handout image provided by South Korean Defense Ministry, U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flying with F-35B fighter jets and South Korean Air Force F-15K fighter jets during a training at the Pilsung Firing Range on September 18, 2017 in Gangwon-do, South Korea. U.S. F-35B stealth jets and B-1B bombers flew near the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) for the first time since recent tension between U.S. and North Korea started raising. (Photo by South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)

However, Moscow furiously denied Seoul’s account of the encounter and claimed that South Korean military jets had dangerously intercepted two of its bombers during a planned flight over neutral waters.

However, in a statement on Tuesday afternoon, Japan’s Ministry of Defense backed up South Korea’s claims by saying that the A-50 had flown over the islands and that Tokyo had scrambled fighters to intercept.

Further adding to the complication, 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 confrontation took place over disputed islands in the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan. The two, small islands, known to the Koreans as Dokdo and to the Japanese as Takeshima, are claimed by both countries.

The reason behind the confrontation or why the planes were in the region is unclear, but analysts said the mission may have been designed by Russia to draw out South Korean and Japanese aircraft for intelligence gathering purposes.

A former Royal Australian Air Force pilot and analyst at the Griffith Asia Institute, Peter Layton said, “This mission will have given them a comprehensive map of the (South Korean) national air defense system.”

The incident came during what South Korean officials have claimed was a joint Russian-Chinese military exercise. According to South Korea, two Chinese H-6 bombers passed into Seoul’s Air Defense Identification Zone (KADIZ) beginning from 6.44 a.m., joined by two Russian Tu-95 strategic bombers and remained there for 24 minutes.

The South Korean military claimed that they also sent out 30 warnings to the Russian plane but received no response. The A-50 is an unarmed AWACS plane, standing for Airborne Warning and Control System, designed for tracking and observation.

However, the Russian Defense Ministry furiously denied the South Korean reports and accused South Korean fighter pilots of acting inappropriately. They also denied any “warning fire,” adding if the Russian pilots had felt “any threat to their security, the response would not be long in coming.”

Meanwhile, after Moscow released its statement, Japan confirmed it had also scrambled fighter jets in response to the Russian incursion Tuesday.

It is the second tense incident involving the Russian military in East Asia in less than two months. On June 8, two vessels from the United States and Russia almost collided in the Pacific, coming within 50 feet of each other. Though the exact location was not clear, as per the sources it seems to be somewhere in the waters off the coast of China.