Russian warplanes
Russian Air Force Su-34 fighter-bombers. Representative ImageReuters

The South Korean military fired warning hundreds of shots after a Russian warplane entered the country's airspace on Tuesday, July 23. The Ministry of National Defence said that two Chinese military planes also entered the Korean air defence zone on the same day.

The Defence Ministry stated that the military launched fighter aircraft fired warning shots after two Russian bombers and two Chinese bombers violated the Korea Air Defence Identification Zone (KADIZ) off its east coast.

A separate Russian warplane also entered the airspace above Dokdo -- a disputed island that is claimed both by South Korea and Japan on Tuesday morning at 9 am local time.

After "tactical action including dropping flares and firing a warning shot," that included 360 rounds of ammunition fired by South Korean F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, the Russian aircraft left the airspace only to re-enter about 20 minutes later, prompting the military to issue more warning shots, said a South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) official.

Airspace dispute

Director of the South Korean National Security Office Chung Eui-yong has raised a strong objection with the secretary of the Security Council of Russia, Nikolai Patrushev and asked the council to take appropriate action.

"We take a very grave view of this situation and, if it is repeated, we will take even stronger action," Chung said, according to South Korea's presidential office statement.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that South Korea's airspace identification zone is not a 'territorial airspace' and all countries enjoy the freedom of movement in the region.

The Russian Ministry of Defence denied the violations and accused South Korean jets of 'carrying out dangerous manoeuvres that threatened its aircraft.'

It also said that such incidents of South Korean pilots 'interfering' with Russian military planes over 'neutral waters' have occurred before. Korean defence ministry had said that the incident was the first time that Russia violated Korean airspace.

Japan, on the other hand, criticised South Korea for taking military measures over the area which is contested to be Japanese land, called Takeshima.

"Takeshima is Japan's territory," said Foreign Minister Taro Kono. "It is Japan that should take action against the Russian plane that entered its airspace. It is incompatible with Japan's stance that South Korea takes steps on that," Kono said.