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Pacific News Minute: China’s Latest Move in the South China Sea: Nuclear Strike Bombers


China has stepped up military activity in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. As part of a training exercise, Chinese strategic bombers landed at a base in the Paracel Islands for the first time. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

On Saturday, the China Dailyreported that H6-K strategic bombers conducted take offs and landings in the “southern sea area;” the training exercise also included simulated attacks.

The Washington based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative identified the location as Woody Island, China’s largest base in the Paracel Islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Thi Thu Hang told reporters: “Vietnam demands that China stop these activities . . . and strictly respect Vietnam’s sovereignty.”

A Pentagon spokesman criticized “militarization of the South China Sea,” while the Philippines expressed “serious concern.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kan urged other countries not to read too much into what he described as a routine military patrol.

Credit U.S. Central Intelligence Agency / Wikipedia
Map of South China Sea

China has sent fighter aircraft to the Parcels before, but the H6-K represents a new order of capability. The bomber can carry half a dozen cruise missiles more than 2,200 miles. Those missiles can be armed with nuclear weapons.

Much more than a routine patrol, last week’s exercise was the latest in a long series of gradual steps by China to elbow aside its neighbors and establish dominance over a vast area it regards as sovereign territory, and the rest of the world sees as international waters. 

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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