Russia, China warplanes breach South Korea's air defense zone dozens of times: Report

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Chinese and Russian warplanes have brazenly violated South Korea's air defense identification zone (KADIZ) with alarming frequency, conducting between 70 to 90 incursions annually since 2019, a South Korean lawmaker said on Thursday.

Chinese military aircraft have flown into the KADIZ approximately 70 times yearly between 2020 and 2022 and 25 times thus far this year,” the major daily JoongAng cited Rep. Shin Won-sik as saying.

He added: “Russian warplanes intruded into the zone on 10 to 20 occasions in the same timeframe and twice so far this year.”

KADIZ is South Korea's designated airspace outside its territorial boundaries to monitor and control approaching aircraft. Russia refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of KADIZ, while China argues that the area does not constitute territorial airspace and asserts that all nations should have freedom of movement within it.

Violations occur when Russian and Chinese warplanes enter KADIZ without notification or fail to adhere to South Korea's air traffic rules. These actions challenge sovereignty and trigger security concerns, prompting South Korea to scramble fighter jets for interception.

The lawmaker’s comment came a day after Seoul was forced to scramble jets in response to Russian and Chinese military aircraft flying into KADIZ for approximately an hour. Japan similarly scrambled jets when the warplanes flew over the Sea of Japan.

Moscow and Beijing had briefly announced a joint “air patrol” where Russian Tu-95MS strategic missile-carrying bombers, Chinese Hong-6K strategic bombers, Russian Su-30SM and Su-35S fighter jets and Chinese Shenyang J-11 fighters flew over the Sea of Japan, East China Sea and western Pacific Ocean over the course of two days.

The South Korean daily reported that a South Korean military official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the purpose of Chinese and Russian joint exercises, and incursions into the KADIZ, could be “to test the readiness of the [South] Korean Air Force, as well as to collect information on various weapons systems and communication signals.”

The persistent and provocative actions of Russian and Chinese warplanes have been a source of growing unease for US allies South Korea and Japan, often necessitating the scramble of their own fighter jets. These aggressive missions not only raise tensions in the region but also underscore the complex dynamics and power play in East Asia.

The flights by Russian and Chinese warplanes not only challenge the sovereignty and security of South Korea and Japan but also serve as a demonstration of military capabilities and geopolitical influence. These actions are often seen as a form of geopolitical muscle-flexing and a strategic assertion of power in the region. The frequent encounters between these countries' air forces highlight the delicate balance of power and territorial disputes that exist in East Asia, contributing to an environment of heightened tension and the need for constant vigilance.

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