Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Yasushi Tomiyama

【#302】China Demonstrates Capability of Bombing Guam

Yasushi Tomiyama / 2015.05.28 (Thu)

May 25, 2015

     On May 21, Chinese air force planes flew over the Miyako Strait between Okinawa and Miyako Islands in southwestern Japan for a one-day drill in the Western Pacific for the first time ever. The H-6K sophisticated bombers that participated in the drill are capable of bombing Guam, a key base for the U.S. Asian military strategy, with air-launched cruise missiles. At a time when the United States and China were escalating confrontation over China’s reclamation at reefs subject to its territorial disputes with some Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea, China demonstrated its remarkably growing military capabilities through the drill.

Newest bombers fly over Miyako Strait
     The H-6K is the latest among H-6 bombers that China has domestically produced based on the former Soviet Union’s Tu-16 Badger that was well known during the Cold War. H-6K’s combat radius is reported as 3,500 kilometers, indicating that the bomber with land attack cruise missiles can bomb the U.S. Guam base that Chinese air force aircraft had fallen short of reaching.
     Guam is known for the rotation deployment of F-22 stealth fighters and B-2 stealth strategic bombers and serves as the homeport for attack nuclear submarines. Some of the Marines on Okinawa are planned to be relocated to Guam as part of the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan. In a bid to disrupt the use of U.S. bases in Japan at the time of emergency in the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea or the East China Sea, China has developed and upgraded weapons capable of attacking Okinawa and the Japanese mainland. Therefore, Guam as a base far away from China has grown even more important for the United States.
     But China has recently given priority to developing weapons capable of attacking Guam. Among such weapons is a combination of the H-6K bomber and LACMs. Late last March, H-6K bombers flew over the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines for a drill similar to the latest one in the Western Pacific.

Rejecting U.S. pressure over reef reclamation
     Before the May 21 Chinese air force drill, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Beijing in mid-May, conveying U.S. concerns over the speed and scale of China’s land reclamation at reefs in the South China Sea to Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping. But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi rejected the U.S. concerns by asserting China’s determination to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity remains unshaken. Kerry’s talks with Wang thus ended inconclusively. On May 20 just before the Chinese drill, the United States sent a P-8 surveillance plane flying over the artificial islands emerging as a result of the Chinese reclamation, demonstrating its freedom of navigation in international waters and airspace. In response, a Chinese military plane flew in and demanded the U.S. aircraft to leave there, raising tensions.
     The Chinese air force drill following the P-8 flight implies a Chinese attempt to reject U.S. pressure over the reclamation. In a bid to demonstrate its opposition to China’s unilateral territorial expansion through the reef reclamation, the U.S. Department of Defense is reportedly considering sending naval ships or patrol aircraft to waters within 12 miles from these artificial islands emerging from the Chinese reclamation. The waters within 12 miles from a country’s coastline are qualified as the country’s territorial waters under international law. The planned naval operations are subject to White House approval. Will President Barack Obama maintain his resolute attitude against China? There is concern that the Obama administration extremely reluctant to use force overseas could back down.

Yasushi Tomiyama is Senior Fellow and Planning Committee Member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.