Russia Accuses Korea of Threatening Pilots

      July 25, 2019 10:02

      Russia on Wednesday denied that one of its warplanes violated Korean airspace and accused Seoul of threatening the safety of its air crew.

      The Russian Defense Ministry said, "The Korean pilots did not establish communications with the crews of Tu-95MS, fired flares and then the [Korean] F-16s conducted another maneuver, retreating away from the Russian planes."

      "If the Russian pilots felt a security threat, the response would follow quickly," it warned.

      Yet earlier the Russian military attache here apparently told Cheong Wa Dae that an "equipment malfunction" caused the aircraft "to enter an area that was not on its planned route," according to Cheong Wa Dae's senior presidential secretary Yoon Do-han. Yoon added that the attache pledged to look into the matter.

      Hours later, however, the story changed, and the Korean Defense Ministry received an official message from Russia saying the Korean F-16 fighters "conducted unprofessional maneuvers, crossing the course of the Russian aircraft and jeopardizing their safety."

      And Russia's defense minister in an official statement denied that Russian aircraft intruded into Korean airspace, while the head of the Russian Space Forces accused Korean fighter jets of threatening maneuvers.

      Cheong Wa Dae's senior presidential secretary Yoon Do-han attends a press breifing at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Tuesday. /Yonhap

      Yoon tried to explain the discrepancy by saying that Cheong Wa Dae thought the Russian military attache's explanations reflected Moscow's "official stance." On Wednesday, the Korean Defense Ministry belatedly said Russia's official claims are "distortions" of the facts.

      Both Russian and Chinese warplanes repeatedly flew without warning into Korea's Air Defense Identification Zone in the course of a joint aerial drill on Tuesday.

      ADIZs are not territorial airspace, but convention dictates that any aircraft entering them should identify itself, and both the Russian and Chinese planes maintained stubborn radio silence.

      According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, one Russian bomber violated Korean airspace, causing the Air Force here to scramble fighter jets that fired hundreds of warning shots but were ignored.

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