Japanese jets intercept Russian bombers, on heels of suspected practice runs against US bases

Russian strategic nuclear bombers taking part in large-scale military exercises flew practice strike missions in the western Pacific on Monday and were intercepted by Japanese fighters, according to Japanese and Russian officials.

The bomber flights were the latest case of strategic saber rattling by Moscow and followed what U.S. defense officials said earlier this year were practice-bombing runs against U.S. and Japanese military bases in the region.

Japan's Joint Staff said Monday that three Japanese fighters were scrambled to intercept the Tu-95 Bear H bombers that were detected flying north near the Korean peninsula and Japan's northern Hokkaido Island.

A third Russian aircraft, an Il-20, flew over the disputed Kuril Islands controlled by Russia but claimed by Japan.

The bombers flew over the Sea of Japan for a total of seven hours and 15 minutes, the military said in a statement carried by Kyodo News Agency.

The bomber flight was part of one of Russia's largest military exercises, which is currently underway.

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