For the first time in nearly three months, Russia flew nuclear-capable “Bear” bombers near Japan, Wednesday, the latest sign of increasing tensions in the region, two US officials tell Fox News.
The officials said three Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers took off from a base in eastern Russia flying in the Sea of Japan and remained in international airspace.
One U.S. official described the Russian bomber flight as “clearly meant to send a message.”
Japan scrambled 14 fighter jets at different times to intercept the Russian bombers and spy plane during flight near Japan, officials told Fox News.
The Russian bombers came as close as 36 miles from Japan, but remained in international airspace.
Joining the three Russian long-range bombers was a IL-20 spy plane.
The three Russian Bear Bombers flew down Japan’s east coast, while a spy plane flew down the west coast, officials said.
A US Navy destroyer, the USS Barry, was also tracking the spy plane from the Sea of Japan.
This latest provocation from Russia comes as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visits Moscow, Wednesday, the first visit by a cabinet member to Russia since President Trump assumed office.
The Russian bombers took off Wednesday from an air base in Ukrainka in eastern Russia, home to one of Russia’s largest fleet of strategic bombers.
In late January, a pair of Russian bombers circumnavigated Japan for the first time in a year.
On July 4, 2015, Russian bombers flew 40 miles off the coast of California on the same day President Vladimir Putin called President Obama to wish him a happy Independence Day.
Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews