China has dispatched warplanes to the South China Sea and the Western Pacific for combat readiness drills, the PLA Air Force has announced, just days after the US Navy exercised its ‘freedom of navigation’ in disputed waters.
The Chinese Air Force (PLAAF) has moved its H-6K bombers and Su-30 and Su-35 fighters to a number of potential war theaters in the region, sending some planes to the South China Sea and others to the area of Miyako Strait, a strategic entryway into the Western Pacific that lies close to Japan.
“Air Force exercises are rehearsals for future wars and are the most direct preparation for combat,” Chinese Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke announced Sunday, according to Reuters.
While the statement did not mention when the exercises took place, it did stress that the air power remains “an important force for managing and controlling crises, containing war and winning battles.”
The news of the drills comes just a day after the USS Mustin came within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands archipelago, in the South China Sea. Despite Washington having no claims or aspirations in the resource-rich South China Sea, the US Navy conducts frequent ‘Freedom of Navigation’ operations in the area. China has repeatedly condemned such incursions as a threat to its territorial interests.
photo: Chinese H-6 bomber / Reuters