At least 10 Chinese bombers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Southern Theater Command took part in maritime exercises recently, analysts said. This included maneuvering in Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ), which experts see as a sustained pressure campaign against Taipei.
The drills by Chinese jet bombers follow an escalation of US presence in the South China Sea in recent times. At the same time the military exercises are also being done with the aim of proving that China has more than anti-ship ballistic missiles to deter hostile vessels. Naturally, this will once again escalate tensions between China and the United States, which have only worsened in recent times.
China Shows its Might
A bomber regiment affiliated to the PLA Southern Theater Command Naval Aviation Force conducted at least 10 bombers of two types to carry out maritime assault and strike exercises after the Spring Festival holidays ended last week, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Tuesday. According to military experts, the drills involved the Chinese navy's most advanced H6-J bomber and were aimed to show China's capability of countering recent US activities in the waterway.
Besides, the older four-missile H-6G bombers were also part of the drill. The military drills featured long-distance attack exercises and were done to boost coordination between new and veteran pilots, the CCTV report said.
"This is to show that the Chinese military is capable of countering and closely following what the US is doing, and that it is in control of the situation," Yue Gang, a retired PLA colonel, said.
That said, a day later, a US destroyer was spotted transiting the Taiwan Strait, further escalating tensions in the region. Earlier this month, the United States had conducted dual operations by aircraft carriers Theodore Roosevelt and Nimitz, along with their strike groups, in the South China Sea.
International Tensions Grow
A military expert requesting anonymity told the Global Times on Wednesday that the PLA's bomber exercises are routine and not targeted at any country, and showed that China has a huge military advantage in the South China Sea. However, the regular military drills, which have only increased over the past week, paint a different picture.
According to a statement from the US Seventh Fleet, a day after the CCTV report, the Arleigh-Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur, went through the Taiwan Strait to demonstrate "the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific." Understandably, both the countries want to show their might in the region.
Taiwan has been at the center of the tension given. Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense time and again reports incursions by PLA aircraft into the southwestern part of Taiwan's ADIZ, an area between the Pratas Islands and the Taiwanese mainland. The Pratas Islands, which are roughly 170 nautical miles to the southeast of Hong Kong, are claimed by both Taiwan and China.
According to Michael Mazza, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Beijing is using these operations in a bid to "to convince Taiwanese people, government, and military that resistance is ultimately futile."
China has repeatedly protested US military operations in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, accusing the later of violating its sovereignty and stoking tensions. However, the United States isn't the only country from outside of the region dispatching warships to the South China Sea.
The United States was joined by France last week after it sent amphibious assault ship Tonnerre and frigate Surcouf twice in the region. Germany and Britain too are planning similar moves in the region. This will only further escalate global tensions.