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Chinese strategic bombers co-ordinate with Liaoning carrier group

A Xian H-6J bomber of the People‘s Liberation Army (PLA) flies through the Miyako Strait on 18 May 2022. (Japan Ministry of Defense)

Chinese long-range strategic bombers have co-ordinated with the People‘s Liberation Army Navy's (PLAN‘s) Liaoning carrier group to conduct a series of drills in the Western Pacific.

The exercises are likely a response from Beijing to potential affirmations of support for Taiwan from the United States and Japan during a bilateral meeting in Tokyo on 23 May and during the meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) with India and Australia in Japan on 24 May.

According to the Japanese Ministry of Defense (MoD), two Xian H-6 bombers flew through the Miyako Strait between the islands of Okinawa and Miyakojima on 18 May to enter the Pacific Ocean.

After circling the sea about 470 km south of Okinawa island, the bombers flew back to China on the same flight path, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said during a press conference on 20 May.

The bombers' orbit appears to be linked to the presence of the Chinese aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. Data from the Japanese Ministry of Defense shows the Liaoning about 130 km east of the bombers' orbital area on 15 May. Tokyo did not provide information about the carrier group‘s location between 16 and 20 May.

Kishi said that the flight of the bombers may signify “activities to enhance the ability to carry out operations in distant sea and airspace such as the Pacific Ocean”.

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