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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Denies Violation Of Japanese Airspace

Russia's air force chief denied reports from Tokyo Wednesday that Russian military aircraft had violated Japanese airspace, Interfax reported.

A spokesman for Japan's Defence Agency said earlier that four Russian bombers briefly intruded into Japan's airspace but left after Japanese military jets scrambled in response. Two further bombers later entered Japanese airspace again.

Interfax quoted General Anatoly Kornukov as saying in response to the initial report of four planes intruding: "Russian military aircraft did not violate the airspace of any neighbouring state."

"All reports to that effect do not reflect reality," the agency quoted Kornukov as saying.

The denial came unusually swiftly by Russian standards, and from an uncommonly senior source.

The report -- and denial -- came just a day after the leaders of Japan and Russian agreed to meet Mar. 25 in the Siberian city of Irkutsk to work toward signing a peace treaty formally ending World War Two hostilities.

The Japanese defence spokesman said the four Russian bombers entered Japanese airspace near Rebun island off Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido, about 1,200 km north of Tokyo, and remained inside for about three minutes from 11.59 a.m..

A couple of hours later two more bombers violated Japanese airspace for a similar spell.

The number of such cases has dropped drastically since the end of the Cold War. The Defence Agency said it was the first such incident since March 1995.

Ties between Japan and Russia have been strained for years over a territorial dispute involving four tiny Russian-held islands just north of Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido.

Japan wants the return of the islands, which were seized by Soviet troops in the waning days of World War Two, before it signs any peace treaty or hands out substantial financial aid.