China sends armed naval fighter jets over contested islands after US warship pass-by

Monday, November 2, 2015
By Paul Martin
2 Nov, 2015

Days after a US warship sailed by contested islands in the South China Sea, Beijing conducted training for its naval jets in the same area. The armed aircraft flew from China’s recently constructed island airstrip.
Last Tuesday, the USS Lassen passed through a 12-mile limit around Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands archipelago. The reef is one of seven that China has artificially reinforced to support its claim on the archipelago and the sea around it.

The area is believed to be rich in mineral resources, has fishing grounds and commands a position over several busy trade routes. The US rejects the claim and insists that the warship sailed through international waters.

In an apparent response to the American move, Beijing sent armed fighter jets for a training exercise in the area. On Saturday, the Chinese Navy released photos of the aircraft being launched from an airstrip in the South China Sea.

According to some military experts the unidentified airstrip is located on Woody Island in the Paracels nearly 300km off the coast of Hainan and about 600km from the controversial reef.

“Both the defense ministry and foreign ministry have said China would have answers when its sea rights were breached. Such statements need to be followed by real actions,” retired Chinese General Xu Guangyu commented on Beijing’s move.

“It’s a signal China sent to the US that it is serious about its claims. This is the minimum level of response China should have, or it will fail the expectation of its people,”
the South China Morning Post cited him as saying.

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