Reports: China lands bombers on S. China Sea island

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A report from a United States' think-tank said Beijing landed the bomber planes on Woody Island in the Paracel Islands. 

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 19) — Chinese bombers planes have landed on an island in the South China Sea, reports said Friday.

Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force sent a group of bombers to conduct drills in its "southern waters," military sources told them.

Xinhua reported the bombers took off from a base south of China and hit a "training target."

In the Twitter account of the news organization of the Communist Party of China, People's Daily, a video showed a long-range H-6 bomber is seen landing and taking off.

The tweet said the exercise was conducted on an island reef in a "southern sea area."

 

A report from a United States' think-tank said Beijing landed the bomber planes on Woody Island in the Paracel Islands. 

Woody Island is part of the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea, which has been under China's control for over 40 years. China, Vietnam, and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the area.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) said the aircraft's combat radius of almost 1,000 nautical miles means the bombers taking off from the islands could cover the entire South China sea.

"Nearly all of the Philippines falls within the radius of the bombers, including Manila and all five Philippine military bases earmarked for development under the U.S.-Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)," it said.

The EDCA sites are in Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Benito Ebuen Air Base in Zamboanga City, Camp Bautista in Palawan, and Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro.

Edca_Bases_Philippines_CNNPH.png  

But the AMTI added the Xian H-6K, with its technical upgrades, would put all of Southeast Asia in range of flights from Woody Island.

Earlier in May, the United States reported that China may have deployed missile systems in the Spratly Islands, a contested feature in the South China Sea.

The construction of Chinese air and naval base structures on these islands has been met with criticisms from other claimants in the South China Sea, including the Philippines.

President Rodrigo Duterte's administration has introduced warmer ties with China, with Duterte repeatedly saying the Philippines cannot afford to go to war with China over the sea dispute.