South Korea and Russia will hold working-level talks this week over a recent mid-air standoff over the East Sea after the sides offered conflicting accounts of the incident, an official at Seoul's defense ministry said Wednesday,
"Director-level talks between South Korea and Russia over the airspace intrusion will be held Thursday in Seoul," a ministry official said on the condition of anonymity.
Defense Ministry spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo (Yonhap)
On Tuesday, South Korea said a Russian warplane intruded into its airspace above the easternmost islets of Dokdo twice, right after Russian and Chinese military aircraft entered Korea's air defense identification zone (KADIZ) without prior notice.
South Korean fighter jets fired hundreds of warning shots during the Russian A-50 early-warning jet's two alleged airspace intrusions, which marked the first such incident between South Korea and Russia.
Russia has denied its aircraft violated South Korean airspace, but South Korea's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said Wednesday that Moscow told Seoul that the airspace intrusion by one of its warplanes was not intentional and was probably caused by a technical glitch.
"Russia said its defense ministry will immediately launch a probe and take necessary steps," Yoon Do-han, senior Cheong Wa Dae secretary for public communication, told a press briefing.
Expressing "deep regret" over the incident, Russia said that a technical problem probably caused the plane to intrude into areas it had not planned to go to, Yoon said.
The message was delivered to a senior South Korean defense ministry official by a Russian military attache on Tuesday, Yoon said.
However, Russia sent an official statement to South Korea's defense ministry on Wednesday and again denied any violations, a claim flatly rejected by the South Korean ministry.
In the statement, the Russian government claimed its warplane did not violate the airspace, and the South Korean Air Force rather conducted unprofessional maneuvers that jeopardized the safety of its crews.
Many analysts said the joint patrol between Russia and China over the East Sea appears to send a message to the United States at a time when relations between Seoul and Tokyo, Washington's two main allies in Asia, are further strained over Tokyo's tightened control of materials export to South Korea.