A Chinese H-6 military aircraft flew around the Spratly Islands at the weekend in a new show of force in the contested South China Sea, according to a US official.
It was the second such flight by a Chinese bomber in the South China Sea this year after a previous incident on January 1, Reuters cited the official as saying Tuesday.
The flight could be seen as a show of “strategic force” by the Chinese, said the official, who was unidentified.
The move comes after US President-elect Donald Trump has signaled a tougher approach to China, with tweets criticizing Beijing for its trade practices and accusing it of failing to help rein in North Korea.
A Pentagon spokesman said he had no specific comment on China’s recent bomber activities, but added that the US continues to “observe a range of ongoing Chinese military activity in the region”, Reuters said.
In December, China flew an H-6 bomber along the “nine-dash line” it uses to map its claim to nearly all of the South China Sea, a strategic global trade route. That flight also went around Taiwan, which China views as a renegade province.
Trump has enraged Beijing by breaking with decades of US policy and speaking to the Taiwanese president by telephone.
US warships conducted what they call “freedom of navigation” patrols through the South China Sea over the past year amid growing concern about Chinese construction of air strips and docks on disputed reefs and islands.
– Contact us at [email protected]