China's air force held drills near Japan, Taiwan

Jet fighters and a helicopter are seen on board China's aircraft carrier Liaoning as it departs Hong Kong on July 11, 2017.
Jet fighters and a helicopter are seen on board China's aircraft carrier Liaoning as it departs Hong Kong on July 11, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • China's air force said its fighters and bombers conducted "multiple" long-range drills far out at sea last week, including flying near Japan and self-ruled Taiwan, in what it said was a test of its ability to operate over the sea.

In a statement on its official microblog yesterday, the air force said that its aircraft had flown through both the Miyako Strait - which lies between two southern Japanese islands - and the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan and the Philippines.

"China's air force over the past week conducted multiple drills far out at sea, with H-6K bombers and many other types of aircraft flying through the Bashi Channel and Miyako Strait, testing actual battle capabilities over the sea," it said.

The exercises were part of routine drills planned for this year, accord with international law and practices, and are not aimed at any specific country, the air force added. Such exercises will continue, it said.

China's Defence Ministry told Japan on Friday to "get used to it" after six of its warplanes flew over the Miyako Strait.

Japan scrambled fighters in response, The Japan Times reported. There was no violation of Japanese airspace, it said.

China has been increasingly asserting itself in territorial disputes in the South and East China seas.

Beijing is also worried about Taiwan, claimed by China as its own but run by a government Beijing fears is intent on independence.

Beijing has never ruled out the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, and has warned that any moves towards formal independence could prompt an armed response.

China is in the midst of an ambitious military modernisation programme that includes building aircraft carriers and developing stealth fighters, to give it the ability to project power far from its shores.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 16, 2017, with the headline 'China's air force held drills near Japan, Taiwan'. Print Edition | Subscribe