US flies bombers near contested South China Sea islands

Stratofortress bombers took off from Guam

By RYAN BROWNE, CNN
Tech. Sgt. Richard Ebensberger/US Air Force via CNN

(CNN) - Two US B-52 bombers flew near contested islands in the South China Sea on Wednesday, according to US Pacific Air Forces, which oversees air operations in the region.

"Two B-52H Stratofortress bombers took off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and conducted routine training in the vicinity of the South China Sea March 13, 2019 (HST), before returning to base," a spokesperson for Pacific Air Forces said in a statement provided to CNN.

"US aircraft regularly operate in the South China Sea in support of allies, partners, and a free and open Indo-Pacific," the statement added.

It's the second time this month that US has carried out a bomber flight in the area. The earlier flight was the first involving a nuclear-capable B-52 over the South China Sea since November.

The US has rotated B-1, B-52 and B-2 bombers out of Andersen Air Force Base in Guam since 2004 as part of its Continuous Bomber Presence mission.

But Beijing is particularly sensitive about the presence of US military forces near areas where the Chinese government has built islands and established military facilities on disputed maritime features.

The US has accused China of deploying anti-ship missiles, electronic jammers and surface-to-air missiles to contested islands in the South China Sea.

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