The Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs unit has announced that two B-1B Lancer bombers assigned to the 37th Bomb Squadron have been deployed to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, along with approximately 170 support personnel, as part of a Bomber Task Force deployment.
According to the statement, the move is instended to demonstrate the US Indo-Pacific Command’s continuing commitment to allies and partners in the region.
The Stripes reported that before arriving on Guam, the bombers conducted intercept training over the Sea of Japan with F-15J fighter jets belonging to the Japanese Air Self-Defence Force. LINK
B-1s were last deployed to Guam in May when they flew in from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. The duration of the current deployment has not been announced.
Against the backdrop of worsening relations between the US and China, the nuclear Ronald Reagan and Nimitz aircraft carrier groups as well as other US Navy vessels have been conducting exercises in and around the South China Sea over the last few weeks. The exercises and manoeuvres have also involved a strategic long range bomber B-52H Stratofortress. LINK
Earlier this week, the US officially rejected Chinese claims to a number of territories in the South China Sea.
The South China Morning Post reports that China’s Ambassador to the Philippines has urged Southeast Asian countries to be on guard against US attempts to “sabotage” the region’s stability by inserting itself into the South China Sea disputes.
He urged Southeast Asian nations to “properly resolve disputes” with China and “prevent them from being capitalised on by the US to sabotage stability in the Asia-Pacific region”.
The comments followed a shift in Washington’s posture on China’s claims in the area reflected in an op-ed in which his American counterpart, Sung Kim, declared Washington’s support for Manila in the “West Philippines Sea”.
This is the term Manila uses to refer to the portion of the South China Sea it claims as part of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and includes areas claimed by Beijing. The use of the term by a US state department official is rare and has been interpreted as being deliberately provocative in Beijing. LINK
Last week, one of the US Navy’s MQ-4C Triton high altitude long endurance (HALE) reconnaissance drones was spotted entering the South China Sea on Wednesday – the latest addition to an increasingly long list of US spy planes plying the waterway in recent months. LINK
In addition to flight operations by the US Navy carrier USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan and other US military aircraft, the destroyer USS Ralph Johnson carried out a still-more-provocative act on July 14, a so-called “freedom of navigation operation” inside the waters surrounding the Spratly Islands, which are claimed by China as part of its territory, in a deliberate attempt to repudiate and challenge Chinese claims. Chinese media outlet stated in response to the latest manoeuvres:
“These incidents, taking place thousands of miles away from the US and on China’s doorstep, have again proven that the US is the real pusher of militarization in the South China Sea, and China is forced to take countermeasures to safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Global Times wrote, citing an unnamed Chinese military expert.
“If US military provocations in the South China Sea persist, China could be left with no choice but to conduct more drills and deploy more warships and warplanes in the South China Sea, to the extent of setting up a possible air defence identification zone (ADIZ).”
Sputnik reports that while the two US Navy carrier strike groups drilled in the South China Sea last week, Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) jets practiced anti-ship attacks nearby.
The US aircraft carriers have been carrying out drills in waters near China for several weeks, including in the Philippine Sea and South China Sea. Last week, the Chinese military decided to stage their own drills, holding live-fire exercises in which PLAAF jets rehearsed how they would carry out strikes against enemy warships in the region.
The drills involved JH-7A and J-16B naval strike aircraft, which practiced firing anti-ship missiles, the Global Times reported. The military exercises were held on 15 and 16 July. LINK
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