TOKYO, July 16 (RIA Novosti) – Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force had to scramble fighter jets in response to flights by Russian military aircraft near Japanese airspace and over the disputed Kuril Islands on Monday, local media reported.
Two Tu-95 Bear bombers flew over the Sea of Japan moving from the Korean Peninsula, and proceeded along the Japanese archipelago to the north of Hokkaido. Another plane, the IL-20, flew over the Kuril Islands, NHK television said late Monday citing the Defense Ministry.
According to Japanese officials, the Russian aircraft had not violated the country’s airspace.
The Russian Defense Ministry later said that two Tupolev Tu-95MS strategic bombers, flying a training mission as part of the snap military rills in the Eastern Military District, were followed by South Korean and Japanese fighter jets.
“The flight of the pair of Tu-95MS bombers continued for 7 hours and 15 minutes. They were ‘shadowed’ by two South Korean F-15K fighter jets and pairs of Japanese F-4J, F-15J and F-2A aircraft,” the ministry said in a statement on Monday.
“The mission was carried out north of the coast of Japan were strictly in accordance with international rules and took place over international waters in the Pacific Ocean,” the statement said.
Russia launched last Friday an extensive snap check of combat readiness in the country’s Far East, ordered by President Vladimir Putin.
The exercise, which has involved about 160,000 servicemen, 5,000 tanks and armored vehicles, 130 aircraft and 70 Pacific Fleet warships, will continue until July 20.
Japan remains very sensitive to the Russian military activity near its borders as bilateral relations have long been overshadowed by a territorial dispute over the Kuril Islands in the north Pacific.
The four disputed islands – Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai – were occupied by Soviet forces at the end of World War II and are still claimed by Japan.
The two states never signed a permanent peace treaty following the end of World War II because of the row over the islands, which Russia calls the Southern Kurils and Japan calls the Northern Territories.