Chinese and Russian strategic bombers held a joint patrol in the Asia-Pacific region on Nov. 19, the third of its kind between the two countries, the Chinese and Russian defense ministries announced in a joint release.
The Chinese Defense Ministry stressed that the aircraft “strictly abided by the relevant provisions of international law and did not enter the airspace of other countries” during the flight.
The operation, the ministries clarified, was part of China and Russia’s annual military cooperation plan and was not directed against any third party.
Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu detailed to President Vladimir Putin, at the president’s meeting with permanent members of Russia’s Security Council on Nov. 19, that the flight had lasted more than 10 hours.
Citing a report, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said a Su-35S aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Force provided fighter support for the strategic bombers, and an A-50U radar surveillance and control plane had participated in the operation.
Peskov added that the strategic missile-carrying bombers were also escorted by F-16 and F-15 fighters of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force at some point along the route.
“The joint patrol was conducted in strict compliance with the norms of international law. There were no violations of the airspace of foreign states,” the Kremlin spokesman said, as quoted by Russian news agency TASS.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said on Nov. 19 that seven Russian and two Chinese warplanes were detected entering the country’s air defense identification zone off its eastern coast unannounced.
South Korea deployed F-15 and F-16 fighter jets along with air refueling tankers to the area in a “normal tactical step” to prevent conflict, but the Russian and Chinese aircraft exited without violating its territorial airspace, JCS said.
The Chinese military later confirmed to South Korea that the flights were part of routine drills with Russia.
In a statement, JCS said that it will “assess the situation as joint Chinese and Russian military exercises but additional analysis is needed.”
Air defense identification zones typically extend beyond a country’s sovereign territory to allow for the identification of planes that may pose a threat to national security. Military aircraft are required to announce their arrival in advance to avoid potential conflict.
In 2019, South Korean warplanes fired hundreds of warning shots at Russian military planes that entered its national airspace during a joint patrol with China, but the Russian defense ministry denied violating any airspace.