China’s defense ministry stated that the patrol was part of their annual cooperation plan with Russia. South Korea’s military confirmed that fighter jets were scrambled after four Russian and four Chinese military aircraft entered the country’s air defense zone in the southern and eastern regions of the Korean peninsula.
This is not the first time South Korea has had to react to such incidents. During China’s previous joint aerial patrol with Russia in November, South Korea also scrambled fighter jets when Chinese H-6K bombers, Russian TU-95 bombers, and SU-35 fighter jets entered its Air Defense Identification Zone (KADIZ).
Japan had a similar response when Chinese bombers and two Russian drones flew into the Sea of Japan.
An air defense zone refers to an area where countries demand foreign aircraft to follow specific protocols for identification. Unlike a country’s airspace, which includes the air above its territory and territorial waters, there are no international rules governing air defense zones.
These joint aerial patrols, which began before Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine and the “no-limits” partnership declaration between Beijing and Moscow, are a result of the expanding bilateral ties driven in part by a mutual sense of threat from the United States and other military alliances.
During the May 2022 patrols, Chinese and Russian warplanes approached Japan’s airspace while Tokyo was hosting a Quad summit with the leaders of the United States, India, and Australia. This raised concerns in Japan, although China stated that the flights were not targeting third parties.
China’s newly appointed Defense minister had also warned of a disgusting event incase US conflicts with them.
China’s increasing military assertiveness in the region coincides with an uptick in military maneuvers and drills by the United States and its allies in the same area.
In recent days, the coast guards of the United States, Japan, and the Philippines conducted their first trilateral naval exercise in the South China Sea.
The White House expressed on Monday that recent encounters between U.S. and Chinese forces in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea indicate Beijing’s growing military aggression, raising the risk of potential incidents where “somebody gets hurt.”
Over the weekend, a Chinese warship came within 150 yards (137 meters) of a U.S. destroyer during a joint exercise by the U.S. and Canadian navies in the sensitive Taiwan Strait. This prompted concerns about the safety of the maneuver.
Shortly before that incident, a video showed a Chinese fighter jet passing in front of a U.S. plane’s nose, causing turbulence and shaking the cockpit of the RC-135.
During a regular news conference on Tuesday, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin criticized the U.S., stating that “U.S. military ships and aircraft have traveled thousands of miles to provoke China at its doorstep.” Wang argued that such actions do not safeguard freedom of navigation but rather promote navigation hegemony, calling them a blatant military provocation.