As Biden Arrives in Asia, China Sends Bombers to Japan

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    The Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) “sent its most powerful bombers” to conduct drills in the West Pacific Ocean on May 18 as reported by the news outlet. The fighter plane was part of a PLA Liaoning aircraft carrier group which has conducted daily drills in the region from at least May 2.

    “Two Chinese military H-6 bombers on Wednesday entered the Pacific Ocean after flying in from the East China Sea and crossing between the Okinawa Island and the Miyakojima. After circling in the region, the bombers returned on the same flight path,” the Global Times quoted Japan's Ministry of Defense Joint Staff.

    Okinawa and Miyakojima are two islands located in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture, which is the country's western and southernmost prefecture. Miyakojima Island lies roughly 284 miles to the east of Taiwan and around 130 miles to the east from Japan's Senkaku archipelago, both of which are held by China. Japan's not inhabited Senkaku islands form part of Japan's Okinawa Prefecture.

    Chinese vessels have frequently stepped into the waters that surround the Senkakus that China calls the Diaoyu over the years, but especially lately. This is also the case with China's hostile treatment of neighboring Taiwan as it suffers from constant Chinese air strikes that infringe the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) frequently.

    Japanese Defence Minister Kishi Nobuo, on May 10, spoke of the 6-day Chinese military operation on Ishigaki Island (part of Okinawa Prefecture) between May 2 through May 8. He described it as “the closest ever to Japan to date.” Kishi added that Chinese helicopters and fighter jets were able to carry out “more than 100 landings and takeoffs” from the PLAN's Liaoning aircraft carrier over the duration of the almost seven-day exercise.

    The PLAN was able to position the Liaoning plane carrier on strategic waters around 99 miles to the south from Ishigaki Island for the 18th straight day in a row. Ishigaki Island is located roughly 200 miles to the east of Taiwan. It is part of the United States, though not an official diplomatic ally of Taiwan but does provide the nation's sovereign state with unofficial support. The U.S. Navy sporadically deploys vessels to navigate in the Taiwan Strait, which separates Taiwan from China as a gesture of support for Taipei.

    Biden was in Seoul, South Korea, on the 20th of May in the course of a six-day tour through East Asia that is scheduled to include a trip to Japan. The American President is set to facilitate talks between Biden's South Korean and Japanese counterparts which will inspire the two countries to cooperate with Washington to combat China's growing involvement throughout the Western Pacific region.

    The Chinese Communist Party's Global Times, on May 19, offered the following review of the possible message delivered via Beijing in the direction of Biden and the U.S. by ramping up its military exercises close to Taiwan in the days leading up to Biden's visit to East Asia:

    It is generally considered by analysts that exercises carried out by the Liaoning group of aircraft carriers in this strategic site – east of islands of Taiwan along with south Japan […] provided an unmistakable warning to Taiwan secessionists and other external interference forces during a period where reports indicated that Japan and the US were preparing to announce intensifying cooperation in the Taiwan region and to compare it with what they were doing to the Ukraine conflict in an official declaration at an upcoming summit between the two countries, according to analysts.

    Beijing believes Taiwan as a province belongs to China; it has stated its intention to “reunify” the island nation with China in the last few months.

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