by WorldTribune Staff, May 21, 2018
China for the first time sent a long-range, nuclear-capable bomber to an island in the South China Sea.
Chinese state media on May 18 released a video showing the H-6K bomber landing and taking off from Woody Island, Beijing’s largest base in the Paracel Islands.
The Pentagon said China’s actions continue to raise tensions in the South China Sea years after supreme leader Xi Jinping pledged not to militarize the disputed area.
“The United States remains committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman. “We have seen these same reports and China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serves to raise tensions and destabilize the region.”
According to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), “The base H-6 aircraft’s combat radius of nearly 1,000 nautical miles means even China’s basic bombers taking off from Woody Island could cover the entire South China Sea.”
AMTI added that “Nearly all of the Philippines falls within the radius of the bombers, including Manila and all five Philippine military bases earmarked for development under the U.S.-Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. An H-6K, with its technical upgrades giving it a combat radius of nearly 1,900 nautical miles, would dwarf this radius, putting all of Southeast Asia in range of flights from Woody Island.”
The H-6K deployment comes after other recent deployments of Chinese military platforms in the South China Sea, including Y-8 military transport planes, YJ-12B cruise missiles, and HQ-9B surface-to-air missile systems on Subi, Mischief, and Fiery Cross Reefs, AMTI said.
In 2016, Fox News reported that China had sent surface-to-air missiles to Woody Island.
Video of the H-6K landing and taking off from Woody Island can be seen here