TOKYO/SEOUL/WASHINGTON, May 24 (Reuters) – Russian and Chinese bombers carried out joint patrols near Japanese and South Korean air defense zones on Tuesday to bid farewell to U.S. President Joe Biden as he completed a trip in Asia that had upset Beijing.
The patrols came hours after Biden angered China by saying he would be ready to respond militarily to defend Taiwan if it came under Chinese attack, and as he discussed responses to the Russian invasion of Ukraine with the leaders of the Quad, which groups the United States with Australia. , India and Japan.
Japan said it scrambled jets after Russian and Chinese fighter jets approached its airspace as Tokyo hosted Quad leaders. Tokyo called the drills a provocation. Read more
Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
It was the first joint military exercise by China and Russia since Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24, according to a senior US official, and it came at the end of Biden’s four-day trip to Korea. South and Japan.
“China is not walking away from Russia. Instead, the exercise shows that China is ready to help Russia defend its East while Russia fights in the West,” the official said. . Read more
State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a scheduled briefing that the joint patrol crossed the Sea of Japan and continued through the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea. He said the exercise was likely planned well in advance and showed that the “limitless” strategic partnership that Beijing and Moscow declared weeks before the invasion of Ukraine was “very much alive”.
“On the other hand, the President’s successful visit…shows a stark contrast to what we have seen from Russia and China; it demonstrates our commitment to a free and open,” he said.
Biden’s trip was part of US efforts to push back against what Washington calls Beijing’s “coercive” behavior, including against Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing claims as its own.
In Asia, Biden vowed Washington would stand with its allies and partners to push for a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
At a Monday press conference, Biden said “yes” when asked if he would be prepared to respond militarily to a Chinese attack on Taiwan, appearing to break with a longstanding policy of not specifying how. the United States could react.
It was the latest in a string of seemingly off-the-cuff claims that suggest his personal inclination is to defend the island, although Biden has said US policy hasn’t changed.
Some critics said he misspoke or blundered. But other analysts have suggested that, given Biden’s vast foreign policy experience and the background — he was speaking alongside the Japanese prime minister and as the war in Ukraine raged — he hadn’t spoken. by mistake. Read more
Analysts and advisers said Biden went to Asia with a clear message for China not to attempt what Russia did in Ukraine anywhere in the region, especially not in Taiwan. Read more
The joint patrol lasted 13 hours over the Japan and East China Seas and involved Russian Tu-95 strategic bombers and Chinese Xian H-6 bombers, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Planes from the Japanese and South Korean air forces followed the Russian and Chinese planes for part of the exercise, he added.
China’s Defense Ministry said it was part of an annual military exercise. Read more
A U.S. official said Chinese navy ships likely took part in the drills.
Tokyo has raised “serious concerns” with Russia and China through diplomatic channels, its Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told a news conference.
“We believe the fact that this action was taken at the Quad summit makes it more provocative than in the past,” he said.
The Quad meeting brought Biden together with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australia’s new leader Anthony Albanese and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
In a joint statement, the leaders said they had “discussed their respective responses to the conflict in Ukraine and the ongoing tragic humanitarian crisis”. But in an apparent concession to India, which has close ties to Moscow, the words “Russia” or “Russian” do not appear there.
“ACT OF CHALLENGE”
Daniel Russel, the top US diplomat for East Asia under the Obama administration, said sending military planes near Japanese airspace while Biden and other leaders fly there found was “an act of petulant defiance by Beijing and Moscow against the growing solidarity among the major democratic powers”. “
Rand Corporation analyst Derek Grossman said the drills were “clearly designed to signal Beijing’s frustration with the Quad Summit and all of President Biden’s proceedings over the past few days.”
He said Moscow could also reciprocate after Beijing backed the Russian narrative that the United States and NATO are responsible for the war in Ukraine.
South Korea said at least four Chinese and four Russian warplanes entered its air defense zone several times during the day. Read more
In a meeting on Sunday, its new president, Yoon Suk-yeol, and Biden pledged support for measures seen as thwarting China’s regional influence and criticized Russia’s war in Ukraine.
South Korea had no warning of the drills and when it saw the plane appeared to be heading towards its defense zone, it used hotlines to warn its Chinese and Russian counterparts, a military source said in Seoul.
China responded saying it was a regular drill, but there was no response from Russia, the source said.
Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo Satoshi Sugiyama in Tokyo, Michael Martina, David Brunnstrom, Simon Lewis and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington, Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith in Seoul; Written by Doina Chiacu and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Jonathan Oatis and Tomasz Janowski
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.