Beijing, May 20: The Chinese air force has landed long-range bombers on islands and reefs in the South China Sea. According to the country’s air force, the landing of bombers in South China Sea region is a part of a training exercise. It is for the first time that the Chinese air force bombers landed in the region. The People’s Liberation Army Air Force conducted takeoff and landing training with the H-6K bomber in the South China Sea.
China is involved in many disputes with smaller countries in the region. The main reason for the dispute is an expansive policy of China to gain control over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters. The area is crucial for global commerce as it is rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves. According to a report published in Associate Press, the Chinese defence Ministry issues a statement on Friday, in which it said that the exercise was conducted on an island reef, but it did not specify the location of the exercise. The Ministry also said, “It involved several H-6Ks taking off from an airbase and making a simulated strike against sea targets before landing.”
The exercise would help the air force to improve its real combat ability against all kinds of maritime security threats, Wang Mingliang, a military expert was quoted in the statement.
However, the United States criticised the move. “The United States remains committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” reported Associated Press quoting Pentagon spokesman Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Logan as saying. Lt Col. Logan further added, “We have seen these same reports and China’s continued militarisation of disputed features in the South China Sea only serves to raise tensions and destabilise the region.”
As per the report, the Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative identified the location of the exercise as Woody Island, China’s largest base in the Paracel Islands from the Chinese social media posts. AMTI said that with a combat radius of nearly 1,900 nautical miles, the H-6K bomber would put all of Southeast Asia in its range from Woody Island.
China has constructed seven man-made islands equipped with runways, hangers, radar and missile stations in the Spratly group of islands. The move to carry out the exercise in the South China Sea region with bombers likely to aggravate concerns about Beijing’s expansive claims over the disputed territory. Earlier this month The US had also accused Chinese troops of shining military-grade laser pointers at US pilots operating out of the American base in Djibouti