After the US sent a nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bomber from Missouri on a long-range mission to the Pacific at the weekend, Russia has followed suit by sending its own high-tech jets to the region.
The Russian Defence Ministry announced US and Japanese jets had escorted two of its missile-carrying Tupolev-95MS strategic bombers as they conducted flights over the Sea of Japan and the Pacific.
In a statement, Moscow’s defence ministry said: "Two strategic bombers Tupolev-95MS of Russia’s Aerospace Force have carried out routine flights over international waters of the Sea of Japan and the western part of the Pacific Ocean.
“At certain sections of the route the Tupolev-95MS crews were accompanied by a pair of F-18 fighters (of the US Air Force), and a pair of F-15, F-4 and F-2A fighters (of the Japanese Air Force).”
The Tu-95MS is an improved version of the older Tu-95, a Soviet-era four-engine, long-range, turboprop, strategic bomber that can be armed with a wide range of weapons including stand-off nuclear-capable cruise missiles.
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Russia sent nuclear-capable bombers to the region days after US B-2 jets conducted missions
Russia’s own Sukhoi-35S multirole fighters escorted the bombers during the mission, the Defence Ministry confirmed.
The Defence Ministry said: "Long-range aviation crews make regular flights over international waters of the Arctic, the Atlantic, the Black Sea and the Pacific Ocean. All flights are in strict accordance with international rules of using airspace, without any violations of the borders of other countries.”
It comes after North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear testing facility suffered a devastating collapse earlier today, leaving around 200 people dead.
The iconic B-2 stealth bomber conducted a similar mission over the weekend
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A serviceman of the Russian National Guard performs
It is believed 100 people were killed when an unfinished tunnel collapsed at Kim Jong-un's main nuclear testing site.
And another 100 people subsequently died while attempting to rescue the first group of entombed workers.
Experts had warned a collapse was likely, highlighting the danger of a cloud of radioactive fallout escaping from the site and spreading across "an entire hemisphere".
The disaster was revealed by Japan’s TV Asahi today, although they could not clarify when the accident and subsequent doomed rescue attempts took place.
Russia sent two Tupolev-95MS strategic bombers to conduct missions in the region
North Korea's Mount Mantap before the nuclear tests at Punggye-ri
The site has been transformed by the six nuclear tests Pyongyang has conducted
Asahi said North Korean sources told them the collapse occurred as workers were working on the new tunnel. A second collapse took place as workers tried to rescue their colleagues.
Punggye-ri was the site of North Korea’s sixth-ever nuclear test on September 3. Kim's regime tested a huge 100-kiloton explosive which was around seven times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima during the Second World War.
This test is believed to have badly destabilised the mountainside-based facility and has prompted questions about whether Pyongyang’s nuclear programme remains intact.