US flies heavy bombers over South China Sea after joint operation with Japan

Matthew Little
By Matthew Little
July 7, 2017US News
US flies heavy bombers over South China Sea after joint operation with Japan
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, takes off from Andersen Air Base, Guam to fly a bilateral mission with two Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15’s over the East China Sea, July 6, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

Two U.S. B-1B Lancer supersonic heavy bombers flew over the South China Sea in a joint operation with Japan Air Self-Defense Force, the U.S. Air Force said on Thursday, July 6.

The Air Force said the operation “sharpened their combat skills” and deepened trust between the two militaries. It comes as U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping prepare to meet on the sidelines of a G-20 summit in Germany.

Tensions between the United States and China are rising over North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear program and the Chinese regime’s inability to rein in its wayward ally. Around 75 percent of North Korean trade is with China.

Last week, the U.S. announced sanctions against a Chinese bank, a shipping company, and two Chinese nationals over their part in facilitating North Korea’s nuclear program.

The U.S.-Japan operation comes two months after North Korea launched a ballistic missile toward Japan.

A source familiar with Japan’s national security later told a reporter with The Nikkei Asian Review that that missile was capable of reaching Japan with a nuclear warhead.

The Pacific Air Force Headquarters said Thursday’s operation proved the United States could conduct seamless operations with its allies and demonstrated the United States would keep exercising the rights of freedom of navigation “anywhere international law allows.” Those rights extended to military operations around the world, it said.

“U.S. joint military forces in the Indo-Asia-Pacific are always ready to defend the American homeland. These flights with Japan demonstrate the solidarity between Japan and the U.S. to defend against provocative and destabilizing actions in the Pacific theater,” said the Air Force.

The Chinese regime has been accused of flouting such laws and destabilizing the South China Sea by asserting a territorial claim that extends well beyond the limits granted by international law, which grants territorial waters up to 12 nautical miles from shore and an exclusive economic zone  up to 200 nautical miles.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told Reuters there was no problem with freedom of navigation or overflight for the East and South China seas “but China resolutely opposes individual countries using the banner of freedom of navigation and overflight to flaunt military force and harm China’s sovereignty and security,” he said.

China’s Defense Ministry said China monitored relevant countries’s military activities next to China.

“The Chinese military will resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and security as well as regional peace and stability,” it added.

The Air Force said the Lancers took off from Guam, flew a mission over the East China Sea with their Japanese counterparts, finished the joint exercise and then flew over the South China Sea before returning to Andersen Air Base in Guam.

The operation allowed the allies to improve tactical skills and build “bilateral confidence and strong working relationships,” said the Air Force.

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