Chinese bombers took part in a high-intensity exercise over the South China Sea, Beijing said on Thursday, just weeks after two US aircraft carrier strike groups conducted drills of their own in the disputed waters.
Both H-6G and H-6J bombers from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were involved in the drills, which simulated nighttime take-offs, long-range raids and attacks on sea targets, the defence ministry said.
The exercise was part of the Chinese military’s regular operations to boost its combat readiness, spokesman Ren Guoqiang. He did not specify the exact location of the drill or say when it took place.
Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.
Meanwhile, the PLA Southern Theatre Command said on Thursday that a naval fleet of three frigates – the Liupanshui, Qujing and Meizhou – took part in a drill in the South China Sea earlier this month.
The increase in military manoeuvres comes amid a sharp uptick in tensions between China and the United States over the strategic waterway.
Earlier this month, Washington formally labelled most of China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea illegal, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying the US and the world would not allow Beijing to treat the waterway as its “maritime empire”.
Ren, however, said China had “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea and said the exercises led by the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike groups were evidence of America’s “hegemonic attitude” in disturbing the peace and stability in the region.
“We demand the US side stop issuing wrongful remarks, stop its provocative military actions in the South China Sea and stop sowing discord among countries in the region,” he said.
Retired PLA naval officer Wang Yunfei said last week that US President Donald Trump might be considering launching a surprise attack on features in the South China Sea claimed by Beijing in an effort to boost his re-election bid.
Scarborough Shoal, which is also claimed by the Philippines, was one of the most likely options, should such a move be made, Wang said in an article posted on Phoenix Television’s website.
Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said the chance of a close encounter between US and Chinese warships or planes was rising.
“The [PLA] drill comes not long after the US conducted dual carrier drills, so it’s plausible it was aimed at showing resolve and the ability to threaten the movement of carriers transiting the South China Sea,” he said.
The use of H-6 bombers suggested the drill might have been “training for maritime strikes on US Navy carrier strike groups”.
“After Pompeo’s statement [about the South China Sea] and increased US Navy activity, we might anticipate the PLA ramping up its challenges,” he said.
Purchase the 120+ page China Internet Report 2020 Pro Edition, brought to you by SCMP Research, and enjoy a 30% discount (original price US$400). The report includes deep-dive analysis, trends, and case studies on the 10 most important internet sectors. Now in its 3rd year, this go-to source for understanding China tech also comes with exclusive access to 6+ webinars with C-level executives, including Charles Li, CEO of HKEX, James Peng, CEO/founder of Pony.ai, and senior executives from Alibaba, Huawei, Kuaishou, Pinduoduo, and more. Offer valid until 31 August 2020. To purchase, please click here.
More from South China Morning Post:
- US Air Force surveillance plane spotted off south coast of China, think tank says
- US puts record number of eyes in the skies off China coast in July
- Close encounter between US-China militaries captured by radio amateur
This article US-China relations: PLA bombers carry out ‘attack exercise’ in South China Sea first appeared on South China Morning Post