Russia denies intrusion into Japan's airspace

Moscow, Feb 7 (IANS) A Russian military spokesman Thursday said two Russian fighter jets acted within international rules and did not violate Japanese airspace as Tokyo claimed.

"All sorties are strictly controlled by the command and have been conducted under air traffic control in a strict accordance with the international rules, without violation of the other countries' borders," Xinhua quoted Eastern Military District spokesman Alexander Gordeev as saying.

Gordeev said the Russian air force has conducted flights over the Sea of Japan as part of large-scale exercises that started earlier this week.

Japan lodged a protest earlier Thursday after two SU-27 fighters were allegedly detected off the northern island of Hokkaido for just over a minute.

"Around 0600 GMT today (Thursday), military fighters belonging to Russian Federation breached our nation's airspace above territorial waters off Rishiri island in Hokkaido," the Japanese foreign ministry said.

It was the first time since 2008 that Tokyo has accused Russia of violating its airspace.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earlier said Japan will promote talks with Russia to resolve territorial dispute between the two countries.

Abe said he hopes the two countries could find solutions acceptable to both sides.

Japan and Russia are embroiled in a dispute over some islands north of Hokkaido since the end of the World War II.

The islands were called the Southern Kuril in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan.

The dispute has prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty.

Earlier this week, Russia launched a large-scale military drill on the Kuril Islands, involving artillery, air forces, navy and border troops. However, it was unclear whether the war games were held near the disputed islands.

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