The Chinese air force confirmed Saturday that its warplanes had conducted long-range drills over the Bashi Channel and the Miyako Strait “several times” over the past week. This news broke just a day after the country’s Defense Ministry told Japan that it should “get used to” the military exercises in the area.
“China’s air force over the past week conducted multiple drills far out at sea, with H-6K bombers and many other types of aircraft flying through the Bashi Channel and Miyako Strait, testing actual battle capabilities over the sea,” air force spokesman Shen Jinke was quoted as saying by the state-run CGTN website.
Shen said the drills were carried out as part of the air force’s yearly training plan, stressing that they complied with international law and were not aimed “at any specific country, region or target.”
Saturday’s announcement came after a Defense Ministry spokesman defended what he called “routine exercises” Thursday that saw six Chinese H-6 bombers fly through the Miyako Strait.
Japan scrambled fighters in response. There was no violation of Japanese airspace.
“It is legitimate for Chinese military planes to fly through the strait, and more similar training will be conducted on the high seas as needed,” spokesman Ren Guoqiang Guoqiang said.
“The parties concerned don’t need to overact and make a great fuss about it,” he added. “They will feel better after getting used to such drills.”
With the Chinese flexing their muscle in the region and increasing their influence, indeed the Japanese will need to get used to these kinds of exercises by the Chinese. According to Japanese Defense Forces, they scrambled aircraft in response to Chinese drills a record-high 1168 times during the fiscal year 2016 which ended in March.
During the months from April – June, Japanese aircraft have scrambled 101 times.
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Photo courtesy Japan Ministry of Defense