MANILA, Philippines — China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force has deployed fighter jets to the disputed South China Sea for a joint combat mission, Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported Wednesday.
According to the report, the Russian-made Su-35 fighter jets were dispatched to the sea to enhance the combat capability of the Chinese air force under long-distance or high-sea conditions.
“The PLA air force said it would continue to attach importance to science and technology, rule of law and sound planning in its training to improve its ability to win wars in the new era,” Xinhua said.
Chinese tabloid Global Times, meanwhile, reported that the deployment of fighter jets to the contested waters may be in reaction to the provocation of the United States.
According to Global Times, retired major general Xu Guangyu said that the Su-35 is more advanced than Chinese fighter jets at the moment.
Xu also said that the deployment shows that China-Russia military cooperation is “solid, mutual benefited and reliable.”
The Su-35 can attack targets on the ground and the sea, improving combat capability of the Chinese air force overseas, the report said.
In 2015, China bought 24 Su-35 fighter jets worth $2 billion from Russia, which were all delivered by the end of 2017, the Global Times reported.
The PLA Air Force announced the deployment of the fighter jets on its official Weibo social media account but did not indicate how many aircraft were sent.
Last month, the US stressed that they are not “retreating” and giving space to China to dominate the Asia-Pacific region.
Brian Hook, a senior policy adviser to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, said that China’s provocative actions in the South China Sea undermine the sovereignty of neighboring states.
“China’s provocative militarization of the South China Sea is one area where China is contesting international law. They’re pushing around smaller states in ways that put strains on the global system, and their actions also undermine core principles of sovereignty, which are very dear to us,” Hook said in a telephone press briefing.
“When China’s behavior is out of step with these values and these rules, we will stand up and defend the rule of law,” Hook said.