South Korea presented Russia with evidence of a Russian warplane’s airspace intrusion Thursday, during a working-level meeting over a recent intrusion into Korea’s territorial skies, Seoul’s Defense Ministry said, as the two sides maintain conflicting accounts of the incident.
“During the working-level meeting, the Defense Ministry provided a detailed explanation with evidence that the Russian military aircraft violated South Korea’s airspace,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The Russian side said they will immediately send the evidence (provided by Korea) to their Defense Ministry to reflect in their investigation.”
Lee Won-ik, director general of international policy at the ministry, led the meeting on the Korean side, while Russian attache Nikolay Marchenko, an air force colonel, spoke for the Russian side.
On Tuesday, a Russian military aircraft trespassed twice into South Korea’s territorial skies some 13 kilometers from the easternmost islets of Dokdo, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. South Korean fighter jets dispatched to the area fired 360 warning shots toward the Russian A-50, an early warning and control aircraft.
Two Russian strategic bombers and Chinese bombers also entered South Korea’s air defense identification zone without prior notice.
Following the incident, the South Korean government lodged a strong complaint with Russia over the airspace intrusion, with the Defense Ministry calling in Russian military attaches here to file a protest Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Cheong Wa Dae said the military attaches who were summoned expressed deep regret over the airspace intrusion and cited a technical malfunction of the aircraft as the possible reason for the incident.
The Russian government, however, sent an official statement later in the day that denied Cheong Wa Dae’s announcement, saying its aircraft did not violate Korea’s airspace.
Moscow also criticized Seoul for “aerial hooliganism,” claiming the Korean fighter jets had conducted unprofessional maneuvers to cross the course of its aircraft.
Earlier in the morning, the Russian Embassy in Seoul also denied news reports that Russia had expressed regret for the intrusion. It reiterated the claim that the Russian warplanes did not violate South Korea’s airspace.
“We have been closely following the media reports on remarks of Korea’s senior Cheong Wa Dae secretary for public communication Yoon Do-han, who said Russia expressed regret over the incident citing ‘equipment malfunction,’“ the Russian Embassy said via Twitter.
“Over (Seoul’s) claims, we explain that it is not true. Russian government has not found evidence that its warplanes violated South Korea’s airspace.”
The embassy added that Russia would conduct a thorough investigation into the accusation and deliver an official statement to Korea.
Regarding the controversy, the United States said a Russian warplane did cross into South Korea’s territorial skies.
“Well, to the best of my recollection, it’s not new that the Russians have been flying routes south, right? To that area,” US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday, during a meeting with reporters. “I think what’s new is the fact that they did cross into South Korean airspace.”
Not only did Esper’s remark support the South Korean government, it also appears to counter Japan’s assertion that the Russian aircraft violated its airspace, as the country also claims sovereignty over the Dokdo Islets.
The new defense secretary, who was confirmed by the Senate a day earlier, is expected to visit Korea and Japan early next month.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn also said the United States “strongly supports” Korea and Japan in their responses to the incursion by Chinese and Russian aircraft.
By Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org