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China, Russia fly bombers to ‘counter' Quad summit

A Tu-95 bomber of the Russian Air Force flies over the Sea of Japan on 24 May 2022. (Japan Ministry of Defense)

Japan and South Korea scrambled its fighters to intercept a “provocative” joint exercise by four Chinese and two Russian strategic bombers in the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea on 24 May.

The exercise appears to be a show of force by Beijing and Moscow pointed at the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the Quad), which was taking place in Tokyo on that same day. The meeting was attended by the leaders of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States.

Two Chinese Xian H-6 bombers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) were detected flying from the East China Sea to the Sea of the Japan in the morning. The H-6s were joined by two Tupolov Tu-95 strategic bombers of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) in the sea of Japan.

The four bombers proceeded on a southwestern course. In the afternoon, two new PLA H-6s replaced the earlier two H-6s in the formation. The aircraft then flew through the Miyako Strait between Okinawa and Miyakojima islands, into the Western Pacific.

Photographs of the aircraft shared by the Japanese Ministry of Defense (MoD) show that the Chinese aircraft appear to be the H-6K variant of the bomber aircraft while the Russian aircraft are Tu-95MSs. Both Chinese and Russian aircraft returned to the East China Sea on the same flight path.

Speaking at a press conference later in the day, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi noted that this is the fourth such long-distance joint flight by Chinese and Russian bombers around Japan since July 2019. It is also the first such flight since November 2021, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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