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|An image of the drill published on Chinese media. Photo CGTN.|
Global Times cited Chinese defense ministry as saying that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) mobilized its debut H-6J bomber and H-6G to join in the drills, which simulated nighttime take-offs, long-range raids, and attacks on sea targets.
The Chinese outlets also cited military experts praising the capability of H-6J bomber in conducting all-weather combat missions and accurately attacking moving maritime targets.
Citing commercial satellite images, the Chinese media reported that the H-6J can carry seven YJ-12 supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles, with six under the wings and one in the weapon bay. The H-6J's weapon capacity is about twice that of the H-6G, with 50 percent farther combat radius to about 3,500 kilometers, the report said.
According to Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang, the exercise was part of the Chinese military’s regular operations to boost its combat readiness,. He did not specify the exact location of the drill or say when it took place.
The increase in military maneuvers comes amid a sharp uptick in tensions between China and the United States over the strategic waterway.
Public opinion generally said that China had conducted acts of "bullying" neighboring countries related to theSouth China Sea issues. China's actions may lead to the instability of the region or even escalate tensions.
So far, the European Union (EU) and many other countries including India, Japan among others have all voiced their opposition to China's aggressive actions in the South China Sea.
Earlier this month, Washington formally labeled 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."
Australia and Malaysia also joining the US to send notes to the United Nations rejecting China’s illegal claims in the Bien Dong Sea and its so-called “nine-dash lines”.
Ren, however, in response 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.
Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said the chance of a close encounter between the US and Chinese warships or planes was rising, SCMP reported.
“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.
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