Chinese and Russian nuclear-capable bombers flew together in a joint aerial patrol over the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan on Tuesday in an apparent direct message to President Joe Biden during his visit to Japan.
Both Chinese and Russian state-run media outlets reported the joint military air patrol on Tuesday. The Russian state-run TASS news agency reported Russia’s Ministry of Defense revealed nuclear-capable Russian Tu-95MS strategic missile-carrying bombers and nuclear-capable Chinese H-6K strategic bombers flew together while Russian Su-30SM jets provided a fighter escort for the bomber patrol.
The state-run China Global Television News (CGTN) reported the joint Chinese and Russian aerial patrol was “carried out according to annual military cooperation plans.” TASS also reported Russia’s Defense Ministry said the joint drill was not aimed against any third-party countries. This particular drill, however, coincides with a meeting between Biden and the leaders of Australia, India and Japan, known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or “Quad.”
Reuters reported that South Korea scrambled fighter jets in response to the joint Chinese and Russian air patrol entering South Korea’s air defense identification zone. Japan also scrambled fighter jets to the Chinese-Russian patrol, as Reuters reported.
Russia’s Defense Ministry described the response of the South Korean and Japanese air forces, telling TASS, “At some sections of the route, the strategic missile-carrying bombers were escorted by F-2 aircraft of the South Korean Air Force and F-15 jets of the Japanese Air Force.”
“In the process of accomplishing their tasks, the aircraft of both countries operated strictly in compliance with the provisions of international law. There were no violations of the airspace of foreign states,” Russia’s military added.
Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said Japan raised its “grave concerns” with China and Russia over the joint air patrol on Tuesday. While China and Russia have held joint air patrols before, Kishi said, “We believe the fact that this action was taken during the Quad summit makes it more provocative than in the past.”
China and Russia have drawn closer together in recent years as they’ve faced increased economic pressure from the U.S. and the international community. China has also shown some moral support for Russia during its ongoing war in Ukraine. China has refused to call the Russian military actions inside Ukraine’s borders an invasion, instructed its media outlets to avoid criticizing Russia and blamed the U.S. for the ongoing conflict. Prominent Chinese commentators have also said Russian understanding and support will be important if China decides to invade Taiwan and have raised up Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an example of how China could invade the island nation.