Two Chinese H-6K bombers flew around Taiwan on Wednesday afternoon in what the Chinese military described as a “sacred mission” to defend the “beautiful rivers and mountains of the motherland.” Taiwan saw things very differently, denouncing Chinese “military intimidation.”
The H-6K is a nuclear-capable bomber developed as China’s answer to the American B-52. It frequently participates in provocative air patrols meant to intimidate China’s regional adversaries, including previous flights around Taiwan and near Japanese airspace.
“The motherland is in our hearts, and the jeweled island is in the bosom of the motherland. Defending the beautiful rivers and mountains of the motherland is the sacred mission of air force pilots,” H-6K captain Zhai Peisong declared on the Chinese air force blog.
The Taiwan Affairs Office of China said “independence separatist activities” are threatening regional stability, and the Taiwanese should not “underestimate our resolute resolve and strong ability to defend the nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The corresponding office in Taiwan, the Mainland Affairs Council, criticized the Chinese bomber flight as a vain attempt at “military intimidation.”
“Our determination to defend the country’s sovereign dignity will never give in to any threat or inducement of force,” the Taiwanese declared.
“China has deliberately manipulated [the bomber exercise] to pressure and harass Taiwan in an attempt to spark tensions between the two sides and in the region,” said Chiu Chui-cheng of the Mainland Affairs Council, vowing that Taiwan will “never bow down to any military threat.”
China proceeded with a scheduled live-fire naval drill near Taiwan on Wednesday, but the Taiwanese said the exercise was scaled down from the show Beijing might have originally intended to put on, thanks to recent improvements in China-Taiwan relations.
A source close to the Chinese military seemed to agree, telling the South China Morning Post that the naval drill was “relatively small-scale because Beijing wanted to send a warning to the separatists, and the independence-leaning Tsai Ing-wen administration, not provoke ordinary people’s emotions.”
“The Taipei authorities confirmed that they had canceled a cannon drill that was scheduled to take place the same day and restricted themselves to verbal salvoes against the mainland,” the SCMP added with a dash of humor.
A live-fire drill of Chinese combat helicopters was also conducted on Wednesday, ostensibly to test their “all-weather operational capability” at sea. Chinese media reports did not specify exactly where this exercise was held or if it was directly connected to the naval drill in the Straits of Taiwan.
Rumors persist that China’s only operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, will conclude its first extensive series of military drills by cruising through the Straits of Taiwan en route to its home port of Dalian. The SCMP notes that recent photos of the aircraft carrier published by the Chinese navy show at least nine jet fighters parked on deck.