The Guardian, UK: China’s military has expanded its bomber operations in recent years while “likely training for strikes” against the United States and its allies, a Pentagon report released on Thursday has said.
The assessment was contained in an annual report that highlighted China’s efforts to increase its global influence, with defence spending that the Pentagon estimates exceeded $190bn in 2017. “Over the last three years, the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets,” the report said, noting how China is pushing its operations out into the Pacific.
In August 2017, six Chinese H-6K bombers flew through the Miyako Strait in the south-west of the Japanese islands, and then for the first time turned north to fly east of Okinawa, where 47,000 US troops are based.
The report comes as China and the United States plan to hold trade talks, offering hope they might resolve an escalating tariff conflict that threatens to degenerate into an all-out trade war.
The report said that while the PLA had continued to extend operations, it was not clear what message Beijing was seeking to send by carrying out the flights “beyond a demonstration of improved capabilities”.
The Chinese embassy in Washington could not immediately be reached for comment.
This year China’s air force landed bombers on islands and reefs in the South China Sea as part of a training exercise in the disputed region.
In January the Pentagon put countering Beijing, along with Russia, at the centre of a new national defence strategy.