South China Sea on a Boil
Chinese Bomber Flies Over Spratlys in Show of Force

The Chinese have made another power move over disputed islands in the South China Sea, Reuters reports:

A Chinese H-6 strategic bomber flew around the Spratly Islands at the weekend in a new show of force in the contested South China Sea, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

It was the second such flight by a Chinese bomber in the South China Sea this year. The first was on Jan. 1, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The flight could be seen as a show of “strategic force” by the Chinese, the official said.

The Chinese have lately stepped up the pace of their incursions into the South China Sea and are growing increasingly audacious: unnerving Taiwan by sailing an aircraft carrier too close to its shores for comfort, for instance, and brazenly stealing a U.S. underwater drone within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.  China has also conducted a series of drills with its aircraft carrier in the South China Sea over the past week.

China’s muscle-flexing is being watched nervously throughout Asia, but it is also being interpreted a signal to Washington amid escalating bilateral tensions. Donald Trump’s phone call with the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen set off Beijing this past month, and Tsai’s visit to the United States this week to meet with Senator Ted Cruz and Texas Governor Greg Abbott has renewed China’s wrath. On Sunday, soon after Tsai’s arrival in the United States, a Chinese state-run paper pledged “revenge” if Trump follows through on threats to reconsider the longstanding “One China” policy.

China’s provocations in the South China Sea became commonplace during the Obama Administration, as Beijing gradually built up its artificial islands in the absence of forceful pushback. If its recent actions are any indication, China has no intentions of slowing down under Trump.

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