The US sent a B-52 bomber through the South China Sea for the first time in months
- US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers flew over the South and East China Seas on Monday.
- China has previously bristled at US bomber flights in the region, calling them "provocative."
- Beijing has lashed out multiple times in recent months over US freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea and Taiwan strait transits conducted by the US Navy.
The US Air Force flew B-52H Stratofortress heavy, long-range bombers through the disputed South and East China Seas on Monday.
"Two B-52H Stratofortress bombers took off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and participated in routine training missions, March 4, 2019," US Pacific Affairs told ABC News, explaining that while one bomber "conducted training in the vicinity of the South China Sea," the other trained near Japan in cooperation with the US Navy and Japanese forces.Online flight-tracking data for the flights indicates that one flew near the Philippines while the other conducted operations around Japan.
The last time the US Air Force sent bombers through the South China Sea was in November. The US repeatedly sent bombers through the area last year.
The B-52 bombers stationed in Guam are there in support of the US Air Force's Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) mission intended to deter any country with adversarial intentions.
Bomber flights over the South and East China Seas are perceived as challenges to China, which has attempted to assert its dominance over the strategic waterways. The US has, in the past, sent bombers to Korea in a show of force to the North in the wake of hostile actions.
As it does with US Navy freedom-of-navigation operations, Beijing has previously criticized US bomber flights over the South and East China Seas, calling them "provocative."The US has conducted two freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea this year, and the US Navy has also twice sent US warships through the Taiwan Strait.
In response, China has issued warnings, urging to steer clear of these areas, and even flexed its muscles by showing off its anti-ship weaponry, such as the "carrier killer" DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile.
B-52 bombers are high flying heavily-armed aircraft. Some are nuclear-capable bombers, while others have been denuclearized. It is unclear whether the B-52 bombers flying above contested waterways are nuclear-capable aircraft.