China downplayed Japan’s claims that Thursday’s Xian H-6 bomber drills over a waterway between the Japanese islands of Miyako and Okinawa was something “unusual.” Beijing said that the warplanes legally passed through the Miyako Strait and did not rule out such drills in the future.
“It is legitimate for Chinese military planes to fly through the strait, and more similar training will be conducted on the high seas as needed,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang stated on Friday, as cited by Xinhua news agency.
The spokesman also advised them to react more calmly and to get used to such maneuvers.
“The parties concerned don’t need to overact and make a great fuss about it. They will feel better after getting used to such drills.”
China admitted that its air force conducted “multiple drills far out at sea,” including maneuvers in the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines apart from those in the Miyako Strait.
“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,” Reuters reported, citing an air force statement. The military also added that the routine exercises are not aimed at any specific country.
On Thursday, the flyover of six Chinese bombers in the Miyako Strait provoked Japan to scramble its own military planes, although the move did not violate the country’s airspace.
The Miyako Strait is a strategic waterway between Japanese islands, not far from Okinawa – an island that hosts about 70 percent of the US troops in Japan. The waterway is also east of Taiwan, which is officially Chinese territory, but seeking independence from the mainland. Taiwan’s military said they closely monitored the drills, Reuters reports.
Beijing and Tokyo have long been involved in territorial disputes, including claims over the Senkaku Islands, which are also not far from the site of the latest drills, in the East China Sea.
The islands, which are 200 nautical miles south of Okinawa, are controlled by Japan. However, Chinese military aircraft are frequently spotted flying over waters near the islands, called Diaoyudao in China.
In March, the Japanese Air Force deployed fighter jets in response to more than a dozen Chinese warplanes passing near the island of Okinawa.