UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) – The B-52 bombers carried out drills near the South China Sea and Okinawa island in southern Japan, while a Chinese newspaper linked it to exercises in Beijing near Taiwan, the US Air Force said on Friday.
The B-52 bombers took off from Andersen air base on the Pacific island of Guam and “moved into the South China Sea area” on Tuesday, the US Air Force said.
“The B-52 bombers carried out training and then flew near Okinawa to conduct exercises with US F-15C Strike Eagles before returning to Guam.
“The ongoing missions of the bombers aim at maintaining the readiness of US forces … and they are carried out in accordance with international law.”
“This is a routine mission,” an air force spokeswoman said.
Taiwan media reported the exercises this week and speculated that they may be a warning from the United States to China following Beijing’s intensification of its military presence around Taiwan. China considers Taiwan a breakaway province.
Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qin was asked about US bombers in a press briefing on Thursday but said only that the Chinese armed forces were in control of the situation.
On Friday, the ministry referred Reuters to Wu’s previous comments without elaborating.
China’s widely circulated Global Times newspaper said on Friday that the message the US bombers wanted to send to Beijing on Taiwan would not work. “The United States can not prevent the mainland from exerting military pressure on Taiwan,” she said.
“The mainland military aircraft will approach Taiwan more and more and will eventually fly over the island,” she said.
Taiwan and the South China Sea are major sticking points between Washington and Beijing.
China has been angered by US “freedom of navigation” patrols in disputed waters of the South China Sea, where Beijing has built industrial islands to build military bases, and Washington’s anger over Taipei.