A new joint patrol by Russia and China caused alarm in the defense systems of Japan and South Korea this Wednesday (30). Fighter jets from both countries were put on alert to avoid invading their airspace.
Eight planes were used in the eight-hour flight, two Chinese H-6K bombers and two Russian Tu-95MS, both with nuclear weapons capability, and four Russian escort fighters Su-35S and Su-30SM.
Since May, Russia and China have resumed joint patrols that had been interrupted by the Ukraine War that began in February. The two countries formalized a political alliance that, if not configured as a military one, has this component in great prominence.
More recently, under internal pressure, Xi Jinping has rehearsed a rapprochement with the US and has made more incisive comments for the end of the war, but he has never criticized Vladimir Putin, his first-time ally.
The Russian, in turn, supports the Chinese claim on the autonomous island of Taiwan, and sharply criticized the US when the country’s mayor, Nancy Pelosi, visited Taipei in August. Since then, Chinese military movements and air raids have multiplied around the territory it considers its own.
After the meeting between the two in Kazakhstan, in September, both even decided to increase cooperation in the defense sector. China already uses a lot of war material of Russian origin, while developing its own industry in the area.
The H-6K, for example, is a modernized version of the old Soviet Tu-16 strategic bomber. It has been upgraded to attack with cruise missiles in addition to nuclear weapons. The massive four-engined turboprop Tu-95, in turn, makes up with the supersonic Tu-160 the backbone of Moscow’s nuclear bomber force.
Interoperability between services has grown. This Wednesday’s patrol was the first in which Russian bombers landed on Chinese runways and Chinese ones on Russian ones. The same had happened in a simulated environment at a major military exercise in September.
The patrol entered South Korea’s Adiz (Air Defense Identification Zone). It is a virtual border that Air Forces from different countries use to force the identification of possible air threats. In the case of the South Korean, Russians and Chinese ignore it.
Thus, Seoul mobilized an uncertain number of fighters and put them in the air to defend its airspace, which is internationally recognized, but it was not necessary: the patrol did not get close to it.
The same thing happened later over the Sea of Japan, with Tokyo sending fighter jets for eventual interception. The Japanese government has increased its militaristic rhetoric, and announced this week that it will double defense spending in five years, with an eye mainly on what it perceives as a threat to the assertiveness of Xi and North Korea – a rival of the South that is supported by Moscow and Beijing.
There is a history of tensions in the region. In 2019, in one of the first such patrols, South Korean fighter jets fired hundreds of warning shots when the Russian-Chinese group got too close to airspace. For an accident to occur and lead to an unwanted escalation, it’s one step.
The Russian Ministry of Defense denied that this Wednesday’s action was aimed at other countries. “It is part of the framework of provisions of the 2022 Military Cooperation Plan, strictly within international law,” the ministry said.
“Our military has dispatched fighter jets to implement tactical measures in preparation for potential contingencies,” the South Korean General Staff said in a statement.
The patrol takes place two days before the United States, main ally of South Korea and Japan and China’s antagonist in Cold War 2.0, presents for the first time its new strategic bomber, the B-21 Raider. Designed to replace the radar-stealing model B-2 Spirit, it will be shown on the ground, and should only fly in tests in 2023.
Interception cases multiply
Air defense About 20 countries such as USA, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea have Air Defense Identification Zones
Range beyond the country’s airspace where foreign aircraft are required to identify themselves
These are zones in regions that can potentially be invaded by enemies, such as routes to targets.
If the plane does not identify itself, it is approached by fighter jets from the country, which accompany it until it leaves the unofficial border.
What if he doesn’t pull away?
With no radio response or pilot signaling, the fighter fires warning shots; later, it can even overthrow the invader, at the limit
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