China Triggers Fresh Tension in South China Sea, Conducts Live-fire Bombing Drills

China conducts live-fire bombing drills in South China Sea, triggers fresh tension

Several H-6J strategic bombers, with a capacity of carrying seven YJ-12 anti-ship cruise missiles, recently reached the South China Sea, as Beijing conducted live-fire bombing drills in its backyard. The Chinese media reported on Tuesday that the Asian Giant sent some most advanced strategic bombers to South China Sea for taking part in the exercise, thus sending a strong message of deterrence to Taiwan and its Western allies.

People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China (CPC), stated that the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) Navy, which unveiled the H-6J bomber a year ago, deployed several such bombers to showcase its military might. The H-6J bombers not only dropped bombs, but also laid sea mines on islands as a part of the drill. However, the Chinese authorities did not disclose the exact location, where the exercise was conducted, as well as the date.

China to hold military drills amid South China Sea tensions
Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea Reuters

It may be noted that China often conducts defense drills in the South China Sea mainly to warn its neighbors, which also claim the region as their respective maritime territory. However, China never deployed fighter jets to drop bombs and lay mines in a live-fire exercise in the past. In a rare first, the Chinese fighter jets took off at night and reached the designated area of the South China Sea to carry out a couple of air raids. Beijing also released a video, showing fighter jets dropping sea mines and bombs to the sea, triggering large columns of explosion. "The bombs hit targets on islands and reefs," stressed the Chinese media.

China's Shenyang FC-31 stealth fighter, an export-designated version of the J-31 fighter is seen on display at Airshow China in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, China November 3 2016 Reuters

According to sources close to Beijing, Southern Theater Command's Navy Aviation Force of the PLA is ready to serve as a deterrent, if foreign forces and Taiwan secessionists provokes China. Experts are of the opinion that the recent drills were aimed at sending a message to Taiwan. Talking to the media, Professor of International Security and Intelligence Studies at the Australian National University John Blaxland said that the action was very much expected, as "the approach the PLA has taken in recent months to ratchet up the intimidation on the Taiwanese people". He added: "This is not surprising, but does not mean that an attack is imminent." The Australian analyst further said that Beijing was trying hard to expand its "grey zone" warfare against Taiwan.

Although Taiwan is a self-governing island situated 160km off the mainland, Beijing considers the island as a part of Mainland China. Apart from Taiwan; Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, too, are claimants in the South China Sea.