The U.S. Air Force has sent a B-52 bomber over the East China Sea and Sea of Japan for a large-scale training mission involving 16 Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets, both countries’ militaries said Friday.
The mission, which took place a day earlier, was the latest display by the U.S. and Japanese militaries of their improving integrated operations.
In a statement, Japan’s Defense Ministry said the training was conducted to improve the two allies’ tactical skills. The U.S. Pacific Air Forces, meanwhile, characterized the drill as “a routine training mission.”
The B-52 bomber mission was part of so-called continuous bomber presence (CBP) operations by the U.S., which the military said “have been ongoing since March 2004” and “are consistent with international law and United States’ long-standing and well-known freedom of navigation policies.”
Thursday’s flight comes just on the heels of another flight by two B-52 bombers in the vicinity of the South China Sea this week, U.S. officials said, in a move that spurred anger in Beijing amid heightened military and trade tensions between the two countries.
China on Thursday blasted the U.S. “provocation” in the South China Sea.
“China’s principle and standpoint on the South China Sea are always clear,” Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said, according to state-run media. “China firmly opposes U.S. military aircraft’s provocation in the South China Sea, and will take all necessary measures.”
Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang was quoted as saying that China firmly opposes countries using freedom of navigation and overflight as excuses to harm other countries’ sovereignty and security, disturbing regional peace and stability.
Such flights are common but usually upset Beijing.
Late last month, B-52s conducted similar training over the South China Sea. In addition to those exercises, the bombers integrated with the Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture-based Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group in the area.
In June, after two U.S. B-52 bombers flew near disputed islands in the South China Sea, China’s Foreign Ministry said no military ship or aircraft could scare China away from its resolve to protect its territory.
Washington and Beijing have frequently jousted over the militarization of the South China Sea, where China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines all have competing claims.