Tags: China | Trump Administration | freedom of operation | south china sea | spratly islands | military | drills

China Conducts South China Sea Drill Ahead of US Exercise

Spratly Islands in the South China Sea
Spratly Islands in the South China Sea (Bullit Marquez/AP)

By    |   Tuesday, 04 August 2020 05:36 PM

China recently made a move likely meant to flex its military muscles to the United States by sending warships and fighter jets to its military bases throughout the Spratly island chain in the South China Sea, according to Radio Free Asia.

U.S. military forces will be sent to Hawaii for the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) drills, a military exercise from Aug. 13-17 in which nations throughout the Indo-Pacific region will participate.

China Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, and Vietnam, which challenge China's claim to the South China Sea, are scheduled to take part in the drill. Australia is also expected to participate, and a Philippine naval vessel is already heading to the event.

Last week, sophisticated fighter jets in China's Southern Theater Command landed on base at Subi Reef. Over the weekend, Chinese state-owned broadcaster aired a documentary about the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).

This video shows four Su-30MKK fighter jets reportedly conducting a mid-air refueling during a 10-hour flight to Subi Reef. The brigade's commander can be heard saying the trip breaks the PLAAF's previous record for long-range flights and shows China can send any aircraft as far as the Spratlys in an instant.

But experts with U.S. Air Force-affiliated Air University have disputed the claim, saying the flight takes less than 10 hours from Changsa to Subi.

"Assuming the video is showing the actual event, they appear to be departing and arriving from Changsha," Brendan Mulvaney, director of CASI, said after seeing the video report and conferring with colleagues.

Mulvaney continued, "The math on a 10-hour trip doesn't make sense. It's about 1,300 miles from Changsha to the Spratlys, which should only take two to three hours at typical cruise speeds. At 10 hours round trip, that implies they're flying at 260mph which is unlikely."

The experts think the flight was likely meant to test the aircraft's durability and pilots' fitness on the long-distance journey.

China Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels regularly roam the coast of the Philippines, and last week President Rodrigo Duterte acknowledged he had no power to enforce his country's stake of the territories claimed by China in the South China Sea.

"China is claiming it, we are claiming it. China has the arms, we do not have it. So, it's simple as that. They are in possession of the property," Duterte said in his annual State of the Union address.

"So what can we do? We have to go to war. And I cannot afford it. Maybe some other president can. But I cannot," Duerte said.

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According to Radio Free Asia, China recently made a move likely meant to flex its military muscles to the United States by sending warships and fighter jets to its military bases throughout the Spratly island chain in the South China Sea.
freedom of operation, south china sea, spratly islands, military, drills
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2020-36-04
Tuesday, 04 August 2020 05:36 PM
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