After Air Force bombers buzz South China Sea, carrier Carrier Ronald Reagan arrives in Hong Kong


HONG KONG — A U.S. aircraft carrier docked in Hong Kong Wednesday, days after a pair of American B-52 bombers flew over the disputed South China Sea.

The arrival of the carrier Ronald Reagan and its strike group in the Asian financial hub is being seen as a friendly gesture ahead of a planned meeting later this month between President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping. That will mark the first time they’ve sat down together since the start of a bitter trade war and amid tensions over the South China Sea.

U.S. Pacific Air Forces said two B-52 bombers flew over the South China Sea Monday, calling it a “routine training mission.”

B-52s impose their will over South China Sea ahead of sit-down between US, Chinese defense chiefs
B-52s impose their will over South China Sea ahead of sit-down between US, Chinese defense chiefs
Two U.S. Air Force B-52H bombers flew over the hotly contested South China Sea Tuesday, signaling U.S. determination to continue to fly and sail wherever international law allows.

By: Ryan Pickrell, Business Insider
The B-52H Stratofortress bombers departed Andersen Air Force Base in Guam as part of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence operations that began in 2004, Pacific Air Forces said in a statement Wednesday.

“This recent mission is consistent with international law and United States’ long-standing commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the statement said.

China has demanded the U.S. cease military activity of all kinds near its South China Sea island claims that it has been rapidly fortifying. The U.S. says it takes no stance on sovereignty claims, but will continue to sail and operate wherever international law permits.

And while the Reagan’s port call is seen as a positive for bilateral relations, other events this week point to the ongoing rivalry between the sides.

The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that China has installed a new platform on Bombay Reef, a remote undeveloped feature in the Chinese-controlled Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. Vietnam and Taiwan also claim the reef.

The platform appears to be topped with a radome and solar panels, and its strategic location makes it likely it is intended to extend China’s radar or signals intelligence collection in the area, the report said. Bombay Reef already has a lighthouse to serve as an aid to navigation.

Unlike China’s large man-made islands created by piling sand on top of coral reefs, installing the modestly sized Bombay Reef platform did not require inflicting major environmental damage, CSIS said. However, that illustrates how easily China could expand its footprint to other features such as Scarborough Shoal, which it seized from the Philippines in 2012, it added.