USA heavy bombers fly over disputed South China Sea islands

USS Antietam

This week's flyby near Scarborough Shoal, which China took from the Philippines in 2012, came after US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis accused Beijing of "intimidation and coercion" in the South China Sea.

"China won't be scared by any so-called military ship or aircraft, and we will only even more staunchly [take] all necessary steps to defend the country's sovereignty and security, to protect the peace and stability of the South China Sea region", she continued, according to the news service.

A member of the 916th Air Refueling Wing off-loads fuel to a B-52 over the Pacific near Guam.

That naval confrontation came shortly after the Pentagon withdrew its invitation for China to participate in multinational naval exercises near Hawaii to protest China's military moves in the South China Sea.

James Mattis, the United States defence secretary, has denounced Beijing for its "militarisation" of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion of global trade passes by ship each year.

The U.S. should stop hyping up the issue of militarization and provoking trouble, she added. Hua warned American leaders to avoid further provocations, noting, "Running amok is risky".

"China's policy in the South China Sea stands in stark contrast to the openness our strategy promotes".

But its claim is bitterly contested by Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan.

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As part of what experts call a concerted bid to cement de facto control of the South China Sea, Beijing has built up seven man-made islets in the Spratlys, with three - Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs - all boasting military-grade airfields.

"It is China's sovereign and legal right for China to place our army and military weapons there".

In an unusual move potentially rife with political implications, Defense Secretary James Mattis weighed in Wednesday on President Donald Trump's imposition of trade tariffs on Canada, Mexico and the EU.

Earlier in May, China's Ministry of Defense condemned the USA for having deployed two of its military warships in the country's territorial waters only 12 nautical miles away from the Paracel Islands.

The two US Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bombers took off from a Diego Garcia navy facility located on a small island in the Indian Ocean to conduct "a routine training mission" in the vicinity of the South China Sea, before returning to the base, a spokesman for the Pentagon told CNN.

Meanwhile, US officials are pressuring worldwide allies to beef up their military presence to counter that of China, as Beijing is strengthening its capabilities on the Spratly and Paracel islands.

Last month China landed its own H-6K nuclear bombers on the artificially-made islands.

"Last week a top United States general further inflamed the issue by saying the Pentagon had plenty of experience in:taking down" Pacific islands.

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