The Long Game in the South China Sea

China outwitted the US by landing H-6 strategic bombers on Woody Island. Can the US get its act together?

Tensions are once again simmering in the South China Sea, after Chinese media reported that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) had landed H-6K strategic bombers on an airstrip on Woody Island, which is part of the Paracels group of islands. An official website of the Chinese armed forces reported:

“Several H-6Ks from an unidentified aviation division, headed by division commander Hao Jianke, took off from an undisclosed air base in South China and made a simulated strike against sea targets before landing on an island in the South China Sea…the operation provided experience for Air Force bomber units to use islands as their bases.”

Analysts believe that the deployment of the H-6K long-range strategic bomber on Woody is likely to give the PLA coverage across the South China Sea region. Beijing is already believed to have deployed the HQ-9 surface-to-air missile systems, advanced radar systems and truck-mounted surface-to-air or anti-ship cruise missiles on Woody Island.

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