The Philippines is now within reach of China’s nuclear strike-capable bomber after the Chinese military demonstrated that it could operate from artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea aka South China Sea (SCS).
Chinese media said in a statement that some of its bombers recently conducted take-off and landing training “on islands and reefs in the SCS in order to improve their capability to “reach all territories, conduct strikes at any time and strike in all directions.”
The Chinese newspaper said the pilot of the bomber conducted assault training and take-offs and landings in the area. The exercise was in anticipation of “the battle for the South China Sea.”
In an analysis published on its website, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said the runway was probably on Woody Island, China’s largest base in the Paracels, which is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.
“I believe this is the first time a bomber has landed in the South China Sea,” Bonnie Glaser, director of the China power project at CSIS, said. She expected an H-6K bomber would land on one of China’s artificial islands in the Spratlys chain that have runways.
The Paracels are north of the Spratlys where the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims.
“The base H-6 aircraft’s combat radius of nearly 1,000 nautical miles means even China’s basic bombers taking off from Woody Island could cover the entire South China Sea,” Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (Amti), said.
“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 US-Philippines Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (Edca),” Amti said.
The Edca bases are Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro City, Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu and Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.
The latest Chinese manoeuvrers followed reports that China had installed radar-jamming equipment, landed military planes and installed missiles on artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea.
There was no statement from Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, who was in Hawaii to meet with officials of the US Pacific Command.
Amti said the H-6K, an upgraded H-6, would nearly double the aircraft’s combat radius and put all of Southeast Asia within range of Woody Island.
It said future deployments to the “Big 3” would bring Singapore and much of Indonesia within reach of even China’s lower-end bombers, while the H-6Ks could reach northern Australia and Guam.
The Big 3 are the Panganiban (Mischief Reef), Kagitingan (Fiery Cross Reef) and Zamora (Subi Reef) in the Spratlys where China had built artificial islands with runways. — (Source:9MSN)