Beijing defends drills after strategic bombers fly near Okinawa

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |  July 14, 2017 at 12:56 PM
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July 14 (UPI) -- China urged calm after Japan scrambled fighter jets in response to the flight of six Chinese strategic bombers over the area between Okinawa and the Miyako Islands.

The flight of the twin-engine Xian H-6 bomber, built for the People's Liberation Army Air Force, took place on Thursday.

Beijing's defense ministry said Friday the flight was legal.

"There is no need to be so alarmed about such activities, or read too much into the actions," Beijing said, according to South Koreans news agency Yonhap.

China also signaled a commitment to continue the flight exercises into airspace between the two Japanese territories.

"The flight is a regular exercise," the defense ministry said in a statement. "It is legal for Chinese bombers to fly over Okinawa...The Chinese military will continue to conduct similar types of long-distance flight training in the future, in accordance with the needs of missions."

Japan's defense ministry confirmed on Thursday Chinese bombers flew over the Miyako Strait in the East China Sea.

The People's Liberation Army Air Force reportedly flew two Xian H-6 bombers Thursday morning, then flew four more bombers across the airspace.

Japan's air-self defense force scrambled fighter jets in response, but Tokyo also stated the bombers did not trespass Japanese airspace.

The Chinese air force and navy previously carried out exercises near Taiwan, and in the Miyako Strait in early March.

The two countries have also been locked in a dispute over the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.

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