WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- China has just landed nuclear bombers on several islands in the South China Sea for the first time, displaying control over the disputed territory.
- The move was evidently a warning to regional rivals, particularly the United States, that its power over the region is non-negotiable.
- The latest drills is a warning to the U.S. that all of Southeast Asia is now in the range of China’s air force.
On Friday, the Chinese air force said H-6K nuclear-capable bombers had been flown to several artificial islands as part of a training drill to prepare for the “battle for the South China Sea,” Reuters reported.
The press release stated that the training exercises will “improve our ability to reach all territory, conduct strikes at any time and strike in all directions.”
The exercises will have multiple bombers practicing take-off and landing on the islands, causing a dispute between China, the U.S. and several other countries in the region.
Just like China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, and the Philippines have territorial claims in the South China Sea, the area’s water resources, vital shipping routes and potential natural resources.
China has already “claimed” the disputed islands by creating a network of artificial military outposts despite opposition from neighboring countries.
U.S. sea vessels and aircraft have made multiple “freedom of navigation” operations to assert the U.S. belief that the South China Sea constitutes international waters, according to Newsweek. But China asserts the islands are entirely defensive in nature, “their presence gives Beijing de facto control of the South China Sea.”
Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, “Some outside forces are not happy with the prevailing calm and try to stir up trouble and muddle the waters. Their frequent show of force with fully armed aircraft and naval vessels is the most destabilizing factor in the region.”
China has created bases that are steadily being militarized with missiles, electronic warfare system and aircraft deployments. Some of these islands feature 10,000-foot runways, fighter planes hangars, bunkers as ammunition storage, troop barracks and deep-water docks for warships.
Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan told the Associated Press that the U.S. “remains committed to a free and open” Indo-Pacific.
“China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serves to raise tensions and destabilize the region,” the Pentagon spokesman said.
“China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States,” Admiral Philip S. Davidson, head of U.S. Fleet Forces Command said.