A Russian Tu-95 bomber was intercepted off the coast of Japan on two separate occasions on Mar. 20, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense, which released the details of the incident on Monday. The bomber, also known as the Bear from its name in NATO code, was spotted over the Korean Strait between South Korea and Japan’s Kyushu Island before being intercepted by F-15J fighters and escorted away from the busy strait.
The same bomber was then tracked flying north from the East China Sea from the west to the north of Japan before crossing the disputed Kuril Islands into the Sea of Okhotsk and back into Russian territory.
Russia, North Korea, South Korea and Japan all share a coastline on the Sea of Japan.
While media coverage of Russian warplane activity has concentrated on the Baltic regions, Japan has seen a large increase in Russian activity over the last year. According to a Reuters report, the Japanese Air Force intercepted Russian warplanes 369 times in the last three months of 2014, four times as many as 10 years ago. The country has also intercepted a near-equal number of Chinese jets in that time.
At the current pace, the amount of scrambles by the Japanese air force is expected to reach 944 for the year to Mar. 31, which will exceed the amount of 30 years ago at the height of the Cold War.
"With only three quarters of data available, we can't yet say whether it will be a record year," a spokesman for Japan's Air Self-Defence Force told reporters.
Six Russian warplanes were also intercepted close to Latvia’s territorial waters on Saturday: two An-26 troop carriers, two Su-27 fighters and two Su-34 bomber jets.
Russian military activity has increased significantly near Latvia’s territorial airspace and territorial waters in recent weeks
Last week, Spanish and Italian NATO jets intercepted Russian aircraft in international airspace near Latvia, while Russian submarines were seen in the country’s exclusive economic zone, just 27 miles from the start of Latvia’s territorial waters and 39 miles from its coastline.