China have accused the United States of committing “a serious military provocation” after the U.S. flew two B-52 strategic bombers over artificial Chinese islands in the South China Sea.
“The actions by the US side constitute a serious military provocation and are rendering more complex and even militarizing conditions in the South China Sea,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
The Defense Ministry said the United States is deliberately raising tensions in the region and demanded Washington take immediate steps to avoid similar incidents in the future, and prevent damage to relations between the two countries” militaries.
On December 10, two US Air Force B-52 bombers, which can carry up to 50 500-lb. bombs and 30 100-lb. bombs, flew over the islands, putting Chinese military personnel on high alert.
Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright said, “The United States routinely conducts B-52 training missions throughout the region, including over the South China Sea.”
“These missions are designed to maintain readiness and demonstrate our commitment to fly, sail and operate anywhere allowed under international law,” he added.
Washington accuses Beijing of undergoing a massive “land reclamation” program in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea, and says China’s territorial claims of the man-made islands could further militarize the region.
The United States says its surveillance of China’s artificial islands indicates that Beijing has positioned weaponry on one of the islands it has built in the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in international trade passes each year.
Beijing says it is determined to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the South China Sea.
“In the face of provocative acts from the US side, the Chinese military will take all necessary means and measures to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and security and resolutely safeguard regional peace and stability,” the Chinese Defense Ministry said on Saturday.
Washington has sided with China’s rivals in the territorial dispute, with Beijing accusing the US of meddling in the regional issues and deliberately stirring up tensions in the South China Sea.
China claims sovereignty over almost the whole of the South China Sea, which is also claimed in part by Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. The waters are believed to sit atop vast reserves of oil and gas.