China claims it has a historic right of ownership to almost the entire South China Sea, despite a 2016 international arbitration ruling saying Beijing’s claim had no legal basis under international law. But the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims to parts of it. An official Chinese outlet said air-to-air missiles were launched during a two-day military exercise on Hainan Island this week.
The drill was attended by up to 100 soldiers and was organised by the naval force of the Southern Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army, reported the military channel of China Central Television Station (CCTV).
Footage was released of soldiers loading multiples missiles on to jets ahead of the exercise.
Head of Transport of multinational law firm DWF Group, Jonathan Moss, explained China’s presence is increasing frustrations felt by ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) states.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Mr Moss said: “I think what that means is heightened tensions and increased prospects of clashes, potentially military clashes.
“What it’s doing is upping the ante in terms of the dialogue and the frustrations and the anguish that is felt by these ASEAN states.
“That would be my take on China’s activity in the South China Sea.
“The question is really, has China got the right to do what they’re doing?”
Mr Moss also noted there is a real risk of further conflict in the waters.
“It should be on the radar as a danger.”
It comes as two US Air Force B-1B bombers took off from Guam and headed west over the Pacific Ocean to the hotly contested South China Sea.
The sleek jets made a low-level pass over the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its escorting fleet, which was exercising nearby in the Philippines Sea, according to images released by the US military.
The operation was part of the Trump administration’s intensifying challenge to China’s ruling Communist Party and its sweeping territorial claims over one of the world’s most important strategic waterways.
While senior Trump officials launch diplomatic and rhetorical broadsides at Beijing, the US Defense Department is turning to the firepower of its heavily armed, long-range bombers as it seeks to counter Beijing’s bid to control the seas off the Chinese coast.