China wants Japan to get used to seeing its military vessels and aircraft transit the Miyako Strait.
Last week, as my colleague Franz-Stefan Gady discussed, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Air Force (PLAAF) flew six Xian H-6K long-range heavy bombers through the Miyako Strait, a strategically vital international air and waterway that cuts through Japan’s Ryukyu island chain, separating the East China Sea from the Pacific Ocean.
“China’s air force over the past week conducted multiple drills far out at sea, with H-6K bombers and many other types of aircraft flying through the Bashi Channel and Miyako Strait, testing actual battle capabilities over the sea,” PLAAF spokesman Shen Jinke was quoted as saying by Chinese state-run media.
For the PLAAF and the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, the Miyako Strait, along with the Bashi Channel, is one of two strategically vital geographical chokepoints that form entryways into the wider Pacific Ocean. They sit along what Chinese strategists have long regarded as the “first island chain” — a range of features running from the Kuril Islands in the North to the archipelagic Southeast Asian states of the Philippines and Indonesia in the south. Given that most states along this chain are either friendly to or allied with the United States, bypassing the first island chain is central to the PLAN and PLAAF’s plans to become more expeditionary forces.
Reacting to concern in Japan, Ren Guoqiang, a Chinese Ministry of Defense spokesman, said there was no cause for alarm with this flight and that “relevant parties” (meaning Japan) should “get used to it.” Ren said that the PLAAF bomber transit of the Miyako Strait was a routine drill and a legal transit. “It is legitimate for Chinese military planes to fly through the strait, and more similar training will be conducted on the high seas as needed,” Ren said.