Japan scrambles jets, accusing Russian bombers of intrusion

TOKYO Thu Aug 22, 2013 8:11am EDT

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TOKYO Aug 22 (Reuters) - Two Russian bombers briefly entered Japan's air space near its major southern island of Kyushu on Thursday, prompting Japan to scramble its fighter jets and lodge a protest, the Japanese defence and foreign ministries said.

If true, it was the first such intrusion since February, when two Russian fighter jets entered Japan's air space near its main northern island of Hokkaido.

The two TU-95 bombers arrived shortly after noon on Thursday for less than two minutes, the ministries said. Japan scrambled F-2 combat jets in response.

In Moscow, asked about the alleged intrusion at a regular news conference, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said he was unaware of the reports and would look into them.

The incident comes after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in April to revive talks on resolving a long-running territorial dispute.

Tokyo and Moscow have conflicting claims over a string of islets called the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, which have prevented the two from signing a treaty formally ending their World War Two hostilities.

Japanese defence and foreign ministry officials declined to speculate on the reasons behind the intrusion. (Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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