A Chinese H-6 strategic bomber flew around the Spratly Islands over the weekend in a new show of force in the contested South China Sea, a U.S. official said on Tuesday, Reuters reports.
It was the second such flight by a Chinese bomber in the South China Sea this year. The first was on Jan. 1, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The flight could be seen as a show of “strategic force” by the Chinese, the official said.
It comes after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has signaled a tougher approach to China when he takes office on Jan. 20, with tweets criticizing Beijing for its trade practices and accusing it of failing to help rein in nuclear-armed North Korea.
Commander Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman, said he had no specific comment on China’s recent bomber activities, but added: "we continue to observe a range of ongoing Chinese military activity in the region.”
In December, China flew an H-6 bomber along the “nine-dash line” it uses to map its claim to nearly all of the South China Sea, a strategic global trade route. That flight also went around Taiwan, which China views as a renegade province.
In August, China conducted “combat patrols” near contested islands in the South China Sea.