BEIJING has sent the US a message in the skies above the South China Sea: Anything you can do, we can do too. It’s just flown a nuclear-capable bomber over Scarborough Shoal.
The United States has conducted several B-52 bomber ‘freedom of navigation’ flights over the contested waterway in recent months, along with flights by surveillance and patrol aircraft.
Beijing on Friday returned the favour.
The People’s Liberation air force (PLAAF) at the weekend released photographs of one of its newest H-6K long-range nuclear-capable bombers overflying Scarborough Shoal on China’s Weibo social media service. The aircraft, based on a 1950s Russian design, is capable of delivering nuclear weapons throughout Asia.
The shoal is occupied by the Philippines, but China claims the outcrop as part of its ‘Nine-Dash Line” territory under the name of Panatag Shoal.
On Friday, the same day as the bomber overflight, four Chinese Coast Guard vessels blocked Filipino fishermen from accessing Scarborough waters.