China’s air force sent a group of strategic bombers through the Miyako Strait south of Okinawa in a long-range drill for the first time yesterday as part of military exercises in the western Pacific.
The manoeuvre came as US-based CNN reported that the Chinese navy repeatedly warned a US surveillance plane to leave airspace over artificial islands that Beijing is building in the disputed South China Sea.
CNN reported that on Wednesday a Chinese navy dispatcher demanded eight times that a US Air Force P8-A Poseidon surveillance aircraft leave the area as it flew over Fiery Cross Reef, where China has conducted extensive reclamation work. The exercise and the warnings underscore growing tensions between the armed forces of China and the United States, and China’s neighbours.
PLA Air Force spokesman Colonel Shen Jinke said in a statement on The PLA Daily’s website that the bombers flew over the strait in a routine drill that was part of a blue-water training exercise.
Shen said the drill was not aimed at any country, region or target, and similar exercises could be conducted in future.
“The training flight path was within international airspace. It didn’t affect international flights because the bombers avoided the main civilian flight altitudes,” Shen was quoted as saying.