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Japan conducts drill with U.S. bomber over E. China Sea

TOKYO — Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force said Friday it has conducted a joint exercise with a U.S. B-52 bomber over the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan.

 

The drill on Thursday with the U.S. Air Force, apparently conducted with China’s aggressive posture in the South and East China seas in mind, also involved 16 Japanese fighter jets, according to the defense force.

 

It is the first time the ASDF has announced a joint drill with a U.S. B-52 bomber over the East China Sea, where a group of small islands controlled by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing that are a major source of tension between the two Asian countries, are situated.

 

Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told a press conference on Friday that such efforts to “strengthen cooperation with the United States” will help demonstrate “Japan’s will and high ability to contribute to the stabilization of the region”.

 

ASDF fighter jets conducted joint training with B-52 bombers in January over the East China Sea, and in July over the Sea of Japan.

 

U.S. Pacific Air Forces said the bomber that flew this week with the Japanese jets was from a base on the Pacific island of Guam.

 

On Wednesday, U.S. defense officials said the country’s military this week flew two nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over the South China Sea, where China and several Southeast Asian countries have overlapping territorial claims.

 

China’s Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang, speaking at a monthly press briefing in Beijing on Thursday, criticized the U.S. military’s action as “provocative” and said that Beijing will continue to take “all necessary means” to protect its rights and interests.

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