Russia has strongly denied ever apologizing for violating South Korean airspace, as the fall-out from an incident involving warplanes from four countries continues. South Korea’s presidential office earlier said a Russian official had expressed “deep regret” for Tuesday’s aerial intrusion. It says a Russian aircraft twice violated its territorial airspace during a joint exercise with China. But Moscow denies any intrusion. “We have seen statements in the South Korean media quoting words allegedly said by our acting military attaché,” a spokesman for Russia’s embassy in South Korea said, according to Interfax news agency. “We have paid attention to these statements. In this connection we can speak for ourselves that there is a lot in them which does not correspond to reality.” South Korean jets fired nearly 400 warning shots and 20 flares on Tuesday near the Russian surveillance plane that both it and Japan said flew near disputed islands in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, that the two countries claim. On Wednesday, South Korea’s government said that a Russian official had admitted the violation on Tuesday, saying it was unintended and that Moscow would immediately launch an investigation into the case, which the official blamed on a “technical glitch”.
“Moscow said if the aircraft flew according to an initially planned route, this incident would not have occurred,” a spokesman for the presidential Blue House, Yoon Do-han, told reporters. Meanwhile, China has defended the exercise, which was the first ever joint air patrol between it and Russia. Defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian told reporters they “strictly abided by the relevant regulations of international law and did not enter the airspace of other countries”. Japan also scrambled bombers during Tuesday’s incident. The alleged incursion happened over the disputed Dokdo/Takeshima islands, which are occupied by South Korea but also claimed by Japan. South Korea’s military said that in total three Russian and two Chinese military aircraft entered the Korea Air Defence Identification Zone (KADIZ) on Tuesday morning. One of those planes an A-50 Russian surveillance plane also violated its territorial airspace twice, it said, before leaving. South Korea said its jets fired flares and machine-gun warning shots when the Russian plane intruded. It also deployed F-15 and F-16 planes to intercept it. Russian and Chinese bombers and reconnaissance planes have occasionally entered the zone in recent years, but this is the first incident of its kind between Russia and South Korea.