Beijing said it “won’t be scared” after a pair of U.S. B-52 Stratofortress bombers ripped across the contested South China Sea Tuesday.
Accusing the U.S. of “running amuck” in the South China Sea, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Wednesday that China “won’t be scared by any military ship or aircraft.”
“We will only even more staunchly all necessary steps to defend the country’s sovereignty and security, to protect the peace and stability of the South China Sea region,” she added.
The bombers reportedly flew near Chinese man-made islands in the South China Sea, U.S. Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) told the Military Times. The B-52s flew around 20 nautical miles from the disputed Spratly Islands, where China has been increasingly bolstering its military presence to strengthen its shaky claims to the region, CNN reported Tuesday.
“Two B-52H Stratofortress bombers departed Navy Support Facility, Diego Garcia, on a routine mission, conducting training in the vicinity of the South China Sea prior to returning to Diego Garcia, June 5,” PACAF reportedly said in a statement.
The flyby followed a speech by Secretary of Defense James Mattis at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, where he accused China of “intimidation and coercion” in the region through increased militarization. (RELATED: Chinese General Trades Jabs With Mattis In Tense Exchange Over The South China Sea)
“Is it an act of ‘militarization’ to fly offensive strategic weapons like the B-52 bombers to the South China Sea?! Were the B-52 bombers there to safeguard navigation and overflight freedom?! If someone armed to teeth comes to your doorstep every now and then, poking around and showing off muscles, aren’t you justified in sharpening vigilance, taking precautions, and increasing defense capacities?” Hua asked during the regular press briefing Wednesday.
The South China Sea is one of several flashpoints in U.S.-China relations where tensions are on the rise.
In recent months, China has deployed jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, surface-to-air missiles, and heavy bombers to the Spratly and Paracel Islands in the region. These moves prompted the U.S. military to not only disinvite China from the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises, the world’s largest multilateral maritime drills, but also conduct a freedom of navigation operation. (RELATED: Two US Navy Warships Challenge China’s Claims To South China Sea)
The U.S. and China are also locked in a heated trade war, with both sides threatening the other with punitive tariffs. Several rounds of talks have been held in Washington and Beijing, but more talks may be required before the two sides reach a suitable agreement on bilateral trade relations. At the same time, Taiwan is also becoming a point of contention again as the U.S. talks about sailing warships through the tense Taiwan Strait.
China warned Wednesday that “running amuck carries risks.”
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