China Deploys Advanced J-20 Fighters in South China Sea; Tension Escalates in the Disputed Area

In a move to expand its control over the disputed areas, China deployed the most powerful and advanced stealth fighter jet J-20 to begin a 'routine training' patrolling in East and South China Sea, according to a report in Chinese state media, the Global Times. The country has also displayed heightened interest in militarizing at least three artificial islands built in the South China Sea.

As per CNN, the Chinese are determined on showing their confidence in their military abilities in addition to cautioning other countries involved in the territorial dispute. This Chinese assertiveness that can escalate tensions immensely in the disputed territories is not a new campaign of the country.

As reported by VnExpress International, last month US Indo-Pacific Commander Admiral John Aquilino said, "China has fully militarized at least three of several artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, arming them with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems, laser and jamming equipment as well as fighter jets."

Chinese Fighter Jet J-20
China's advanced fighter jet J-20 Twitter

Peter Layton, a visiting fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute in Australia, states that the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) "now has in regular service a fleet of advanced stealth fighters as good as the Americans, who remain the benchmark." There are approximately 200 J-20s in their possession.

The message that the Chinese want to give the World is: "Any foreign military aircraft intruding into China's claimed airspace in the East and South China Sea may now be intercepted by J-20s," Layton explained.

Chinese navy sails through Miyako Strait, conducts more drills in Western Pacific
A file photograph of China's Liaoning aircraft carrier with accompanying fleet conducting a drill in an area of South China Sea. Reuters

The VnExpress International also reported that the Chinese Navy is very consistent in monitoring the Spratly Islands, a subject of territorial claims of some six neighbouring countries. Almost 300 military vessels in anchor deployed by China are found each year in the Spratlys.

Apart from the Spratlys, the Scarborough shoals, Luconia shoals, Second Thomas shoal and Vanguard bank are also amongst areas where the Chinese Coast Guard keeps patrolling. Since 2020, the country has sent its patrol aircraft to the islands consistently but never deployed fighter jets.

Quoting military experts, the Global Times reports that this move by the country is focused on "better safeguarding China's airspace security and maritime interests."

Spokesperson for the J-20's state-run manufacturer, Ren Yukun, explained that it is a "training routine" for the fighter jet to start with conducting patrols as the initial Russian engines are now replaced with the domestically developed Chinese ones.