China Lands Bombers on South China Sea Island
China has landed long-range bombers on an undisclosed island in the South China Sea for the first time.
The People's Liberation Army Air Force announced the successfully takeoff and landing of several bombers, including the nuclear-capable H-6K, on Friday. The aircraft took off from an undisclosed air base and made a simulated strike against sea targets before landing on the island.
Discounting concerns that the move was provocative, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said: “The islands in the South China Sea are China's territory. The relevant military activities are normal training, and other parties shouldn't over-interpret them. As to the so-called militarization mentioned by the U.S., it is totally a different thing from certain country's threat to others by sending military vessels and aircraft to this region from thousands of miles away.”
Last month, U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers flew a training mission over the South China Sea. The bombers took off from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have conflicting claims in the area. China has built seven artificial islands in the Spratlys group and established military outposts on them. According to the Chinese government, there are at least four large airports in the South China Sea: on Yongxing Island in the Xisha Islands and Meiji, Zhubi and Yongshu reefs in the Nansha Islands.
Vietnam has reacted to the news of the bombers' activities in the region saying it seriously violates Vietnam’s sovereignty over the disputed territory. The flights “increase tensions, cause regional instabilities and are not good for maintaining a peaceful, stable and cooperative environment,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang. Earlier this month, Vietnam asked China to withdraw military equipment from the Spratly Islands following reports that missiles had been installed there.
The Philippines has also expressed concerns and says it has taken appropriate diplomatic action.
The domestically-built H-6K is China's most advanced bomber and is capable of carrying supersonic cruise missiles. The long-range bombers boast low fuel consumption and lightweight engines and have a maximum payload of up to 15 tons.