US Says Flight Over Sea of Japan Was Lawful

     (CN) – Moscow is protesting a U.S. reconnaissance flight over the Sea of Japan, claiming the Air Force crew endangered air safety by turning off the aircraft’s transponder as it approached the Russian coast from the Sea of Japan.
     In a statement released Monday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said it informed a U.S. Military attaché that it was greatly concerned not only that the crew turned off the transponder, but that it also failed to provide any information regarding its flight to air traffic controllers in the region.
     “As the result of the unprofessional actions of the American plane crew, the hazard of a collision with civil aviation planes was created,” the ministry said.
     The United States responded to the Russian criticism on Tuesday, saying the flight by the U.S. RC-135 aircraft was conducted safely and in accordance with international law.
     But the controversy continued to fester.
     Interfax, which describes itself as a “”non-government news agency” based in Moscow, reported the Air Force plane flew in close proximity to two European passenger jets, and that Russian flight controller had to change the flight path of a KLM Boeing 777 that was passing through the area as it flew from Japan to Holland.
     Flight controllers also had to change the altitude of a Swiss Air jet flying in the region, the news agency said.
     The Russian Defense Ministry said it asked the U.S. military attaché to “take measures for ruling out such situations in the future during the flights of U.S. reconnaissance aircraft close to the Russian border.”
     U.S. Navy Cmdr. Dave Benham, a spokesman for U.S. Pacific Command, says the plane flew a routine reconnaissance mission with due regard for the safety of navigation of all aircraft, and the flight was professional and completed without incident.
     The U.S. says the flight posed no risk to aircraft at any time.

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