Seoul said fighter jets fired 360 rounds of warning shots to drive away a Russian reconnaissance plane which entered its airspace off South Korea’s east coast twice on Tuesday during a joint patrol with Chinese bombers.
Yoon Sang-hyun, chairman of the South Korean parliament’s foreign affairs committee, quoted Russia’s acting ambassador Maxim Volkov as telling him that Russia feels “regret” over the incident.
Mr Yoon cited Mr Volkov as saying Russia thinks an investigation is necessary and has requested related information from South Korea.
Russia said two of its bombers were on a routine flight over neutral waters and did not violate South Korea’s airspace.
Russia’s defence ministry also denied that South Korean jets fired warning shots, though it did say they flew close to the Russian planes in “unprofessional manoeuvres”.
South Korea said it was the first time a foreign military plane had violated its airspace since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
The foreign and defence ministries summoned Mr Volkov and Russia’s deputy military attache in South Korea, Nikolai Marchenko, to register their complaints.
They also summoned China’s ambassador and the defence attache to protest against Beijing’s overflight.
According to South Korean accounts, the reconnaissance plane and two other Russian bombers entered South Korea’s air defence identification zone earlier on Tuesday together with two Chinese bombers.
However, the zone is not considered a country’s territorial sky and extends beyond it. It is meant to give authorities an early warning of any possible incursions.
China’s defence ministry said China and Russia carried out their first joint air patrol in north-east Asia, and that it did “not target any third party”.
Spokesman Wu Qian said the two countries each sent two bombers for the patrols along established air routes and that they “did not enter the territorial airspace of other countries”.
The airspace that South Korea says the Russian reconnaissance plane entered is above a group of islets controlled by South Korea but also claimed by Japan.
Japan subsequently protested over both the Russian and South Korean actions, according to chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga.
He said that Japan urged Russia not to repeat its airspace violation.
South Korea said it cannot accept the Japanese statement because the islets belong to South Korea.