Chinese air force jets fly past Pacific areas for drill

BEIJING • Chinese bombers, fighters as well as early warning and aerial refuelling aircraft yesterday flew through the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan and the Philippines for exercises in the Western Pacific, the Chinese air force said.

It described the exercises as part of annual, planned drills which are in accordance with international law and practice.

"This move is to raise the air force's abilities via training, to meet the needs of maintaining national sovereignty, protecting national security and guaranteeing peaceful development," it said in a statement.

It said it will organise regular exercises that fly past the "first island chain", referring to an area that includes Japan's Ryukyu Islands and self-ruled Taiwan.

The drills coincided with the start of war games conducted by China and Russia in the South China Sea yesterday.

The eight-day war games include exercises on "seizing and controlling" islands and shoals, Chinese navy spokesman Liang Yang said.

They will involve surface ships, submarines, fixed-wing aircraft, ship-borne helicopters, marine corps and amphibious armoured equipment from both navies.

China has been increasingly asserting itself in territorial disputes in the South and East China seas. It claims nearly all of the South China Sea and built a series of artificial islands capable of supporting military facilities.

But a United Nations-backed tribunal ruled in July - in a case brought by the Philippines - that China's extensive claims had no legal basis and its construction of artificial islands in disputed waters was illegal.

Beijing reacted furiously, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang threatening a "decisive response" if anyone took "any provocative action against China's security interests based on the award".

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2016, with the headline 'Chinese air force jets fly past Pacific areas for drill'. Print Edition | Subscribe