Russia Sends Nuclear-Capable Bombers on Mission Near S. Korea, Japan

MOSCOW (Reuters) -
In this file photo, a technician prepares a Russian long-range bomber Tu-22M3 for an an airstrike over Syria. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service photo via AP)

Russian nuclear-capable strategic bombers have flown over the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Japan, the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea, prompting Japan and South Korea to scramble jets to escort them, Russia said on Thursday.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that the Tupolev-95MS bombers, code-named “Bears” by NATO, flew over neutral waters and were accompanied by Russian Sukhoi-35S fighter jets and A-50 early-warning and control aircraft.

It gave no details about the overall number of aircraft that had taken part in what it called a pre-arranged flight and did not say when or why the mission took place.

The TU-95MS bombers were refueled in mid-air during the mission, the Ministry said.

During parts of the route, the bombers were escorted by South Korean and Japanese military jets, it added.

Russia, which shares a border with North Korea, has repeatedly voiced concerns about rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula caused by Pyongyang’s nuclear missile program, and has complained about Japan’s plans to deploy a U.S. anti-missile system on its soil.