China lands bombers on South China Sea island

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Beijing, May 19 (IANS) China has landed bombers, for the first time, on disputed territory in the South China Sea prompting fresh US warnings that it is destabilising the region, said China’s air force.

A video showed an H-6K landing and taking off from a base on Woody Island, the largest of the Paracel Islands, BBC reported on Saturday quoting experts from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) as saying. Woody Island, which China calls Yongxing, is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

Although China has deployed fighter jets to Woody Island in the past, this is the first time bombers have landed on a South China Sea island, the AMTI said. It added that an H-6K could reach all of South East Asia from the island.

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However, Beijing’s Defence Ministry did not specify where the bombers landed but said the training involved simulated strikes against sea targets. An H-6K pilot, Ge Daqing, was quoted in a statement as saying that the training “sharpens our courage and enhances our capabilities in a real war”.

The long-range H-6K bomber was among those which took part in drills on islands and reefs to improve China’s ability to “reach all territory”.

The sea, a key trade route, is subject to overlapping claims by six countries. China has been accused of militarising the sea to support its vast claims.

Analysts say bombers will likely soon land in the Spratly Islands further south, where runways and hangers have been built on reefs. From there H-6Ks could reach northern Australia or US bases on Guam, said the AMTI.

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