May 19 (UPI) — The Chinese military landed a strategic bomber for the first time Saturday on an island reef in the South China Sea, something the U.S. Department of Defense said is raising tension and destabilizing the region.
A Chinese state news agency said the People’s Liberation Army Air Force sent the bombers to conduct drills in its “southern waters.” Several bombers, including the advanced H-6K, was conducting take-off and landing drills on an island reef.
The Communist Party of China, People’s Daily, shared a video on social media of the drills.
The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative said the H-6K has a combat radius that could cover the entire South China sea.
“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,” the AMTI said.
Bonnie Glaser, a China security expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., said the bombers landed on Woody Island.
The island is under China’s control, but Vietnam and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the area.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration said it was prepared to take measures against the militarization of the South China Sea, after Beijing installed new missiles on outposts in areas also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines.
“We’re well aware of China’s militarization of the South China Sea. We’ve raised concerns directly with the Chinese about this, and there will be near-term and long-term consequences,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.