TOKYO/MOSCOW 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 government said, but Russia denied any intrusion.
The two TU-95 bombers spent less than two minutes in Japan's airspace, in the first such incursion since February, when two Russian fighter jets entered Japan's air space near its main northern island of Hokkaido, the Japanese defense ministry said.
Japan scrambled F-2 combat jets in response.
But Russia denied any intrusion.
"Two Tu-95MS strategic bombers conducted routine flights over the neutral waters in the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean," the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
"According to control equipment on board, state borders were not violated. The long-haul aircraft were accompanied by Japanese Air Force fighter jets throughout their flight over neutral waters."
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 Defense and foreign ministry officials declined to speculate on the reasons behind what they consider an intrusion.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel in Moscow; Editing by Nick Macfie and Clarence Fernandez)