State-run Chinese newspaper People’s Daily on Friday posted on its Twitter account a video of a long-range bomber landing in an island in the disputed waters.
AP Photo /Shao Jing/Xinhua
China lands bombers on South China Sea isles
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - May 20, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The entire Philippines is now practically within striking distance of China following the deployment of bomber aircraft at a disputed island in the South China Sea.

State-run Chinese newspaper People’s Daily on Friday posted on its Twitter account a video of a long-range bomber landing in an island in the disputed waters.

Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) said the video was taken at Woody Island, China’s largest base in the Paracel Islands that is also being claimed by Vietnam.

“Chinese bombers including the H-6K conduct takeoff and landing training on an island reef at a southern sea area,” read the Twitter post by People’s Daily.

With its deployment in the Paracels, AMTI said the bombers could now reach almost 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 US-Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement,” the AMTI said.

“An H-6K, with its technical upgrades giving it a combat radius of nearly 1,900 nautical miles, would dwarf this radius, putting all of Southeast Asia in range of flights from Woody Island,” it added.

AMTI said China has also built large hangars that could accommodate bombers like the H-6 series at its “Big 3” outposts in the Spratlys, which is comprised of Philippine-claimed Zamora (Subi), Panganiban (Mischief) and Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reefs.

“Future deployments to the Big 3 in the Spratlys would bring Singapore and much of Indonesia within range of even China’s lower-end bombers, while the H-6Ks could reach northern Australia or US defense facilities on Guam,” it said.

The deployment of the bombers came on the heels of the reported deployment of a missile system in a disputed island near the Philippines.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has yet to comment on the deployment of the bomber.

Appeal to allies

 Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the development is the reason for the Philippines to be concerned about China’s continued militarization of the South China Sea.

Lacson said the Philippine government should seek help from its allies in order to exert pressure on the regional super power.

While the administration has been downplaying the reported incursions of China in the West Philippine Sea, Lacson said these actions should be taken seriously and the government cannot afford not to respond to this.

Since the Philippines on its own cannot confront China and expect a positive response, Lacson said the government should appeal to its allies.

He said the country has the ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal to back up its claims in the West Philippine Sea so it has something to stand on when arguing its case against China’s incursions.

By tapping the help of its international allies, Lacson said there would be a greater chance to apply pressure on China and have a balance of power in the region.

“We cannot do anything on our own but with the help of the other countries, we can exert pressure on China,” Lacson said.

Sen. Leila de Lima, for her part, criticized President Duterte for opting to remain “meek and humble” in response to China’s incursions.

“I often wonder what’s going on in the madman’s head. President Duterte said that if we will just remain meek and humble, China might be merciful and will give us a bigger share from the joint exploration in the West Philippine Sea,” De Lima said in a statement.

“In short, we have to ‘behave’ to gain more from the resources that rightfully belong to us in the first place as affirmed by the UN Arbitral Tribunal’s ruling in July 2016,” she added.

Just like Lacson, De Lima said the Philippines could join international calls to pressure China to stop its military build-up in the West Philippine Sea and to join efforts in finding a just and peaceful solution to the conflict over this area.

De Lima said what the country needs is a strong leader who would stand up against the countries who attempt to take over its territories.

“Turning a blind eye to China’s military expansion in our Exclusive Economic Zone over the West Philippine Sea and entering into a ‘joint exploration’ with them are nothing short of a betrayal of the Filipino people,” De Lima said. 

“No, this is not just failure to adopt an effective foreign policy, this is treason, definitely an impeachable offense,” she added. – With Marvin Sy, Jaime Laude

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