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US bombers fly near South China Sea islands militarized by Beijing

An Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber takes off earlier this year from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

GERALD WILLIS/U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 20, 2018

A pair of Guam-based bombers recently flew near disputed islands in the South China Sea, an Air Force statement said.

The B-52H Stratofortress bombers left Andersen Air Force Base on Monday for the “routine training mission,” the statement said.

“This recent mission is consistent with international law and the United States’ long-standing commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” it added.

The U.S. routinely sends the aircraft to the South China Sea — where more than $1.2 trillion in U.S. trade transits annually — and other parts of the Indo-Pacific as part of its “continuous bomber presence” missions out of Andersen.

Earlier this month, Chinese officials told their U.S. counterparts to stop sending ships and military aircraft close to islands claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea. The U.S. pushed back, insisting it will continue to “fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”

Last month, the Chinese destroyer Luyang “conducted a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers” as the USS Decatur sailed through the sea’s Spratly Islands, according to Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gordon, a spokesman for U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The Luyang came with “45 yards of [the] Decatur’s bow, after which [the] Decatur maneuvered to prevent a collision,” Gordon said. At the time, Gordon called the Luyang’s maneuvers unsafe and unprofessional.

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