Russian and Chinese air forces carried out their first-ever joint patrol in the air space over the Pacific Rim, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.
The exercise was performed in line with the planned military cooperation between Russia and China and was not aimed against any third countries, Russian Long Range Air Forces commander Sergey Kobylash told reporters in Moscow.
"The air group consisting of two Russian strategic missile carriers Tu-95MS and two Chinese strategic bombers Hun-6K carried out a flight on a pre-planned route over the neutral waters of the Sea of Japan and the East China sea," he said.
During the performance of the task, fighters of foreign states accompanied the aviation group 11 times, Kobylash added.
He particularly stressed "unprofessional actions" of the South Korean pilots, saying the country's military attaché in Moscow was presented a note of protest regarding to the incident during the patrolling.
South Korea fired warning shots at a Russian warplane Tuesday after it twice violated the South’s airspace, Seoul’s military said, in an account immediately disputed by Russia.
"I particularly want to draw your attention to the fact that the information about the alleged warning fire from South Korean fighters is not true," Kobylash said.
He added that the South Korean pilots did not contact the crews of the Tu-95s, and that the F-16s retreated after bumping into “heat traps”, or decoys meant to confuse possible attacks.
Kobylash said that Tu-95MS planes flew without any deviation from their flight plan in line with international rules and without violating South Korea’s airspace.
"It is not the first time when the South Korean pilots unsuccessfully tried to impede the flights of the Russian aviation over the neutral waters of the Sea of Japan, referring to unilaterally established by the South Korean side as 'air defense identification zone'. Such zones are not suggested by the international rules and are not recognized by the Russian Federation, as it has been repeatedly reported to the South Korean side through various channels," he said.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office made an official complaint to Russia’s Security Council, according to spokeswoman Ko Min-jung, warning that Seoul “will take a far stronger measure” if such an act is repeated.
The day’s unprecedented events involving both Russian and Chinese aircraft came as U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton arrived in Seoul, driving speculation, the flyovers may have been a response to planned joint South Korean-U.S. military drills next month.
By Elena Teslova in Moscow