China is taking a high-profile step to bolster its territorial claims by sending its most advanced fighter jets to patrol the East and South China Seas.
China is among several nations that claim islands in the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest trade routes. Its East China Sea claims include the Senkaku Islands, also claimed by Japan.
It is now buttressing its words with actions by sending the J-20 stealth jet to the region, according to CNN.
The state-run Global Times newspaper said the show of force will “better safeguard China’s airspace security and maritime interests.”
Ren Yukun, speaking for the jet’s manufacturer, called the patrols a “training routine” now that the plane, formerly equipped with Russian-built engines, has Chinese-made engines.
With China’s air force boasting 20 J-20s, China “now has in regular service a fleet of advanced stealth fighters as good as the Americans, who remain the benchmark,” said Peter Layton, a visiting fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute in Australia.
Experts said the deployment of the J-20s was a warning to other countries, which have a claim over the disputed waters. https://t.co/RbhMWXSLab
— Intl. Business Times (@IBTimes) April 15, 2022
He framed China’s message to the world as, “Any foreign military aircraft intruding into China’s claimed airspace in the East and South China Sea may now be intercepted by J-20s.”
Should the U.S. be more assertive against Chinese territorial claims?
Layton said the shift to Chinese engines expressed more than simple nationalism.
“It’s not just that China does not need Russian help anymore, it is that Chinese-built aircraft are now superior to Russia.”
Several weeks ago, Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, the commander of U.S. Pacific Air Forces, said American F-35s flew near J-20s over the East China Sea.
“We’re relatively impressed with the command and control that was associated with the J-20s,” Wilsbach said.
Americans cited “relatively professional flying” by Chinese pilots.
China has constructed islands in the South China Sea that could be used as refueling bases for the J-20s, giving patrols an extensive range.
The United States was on China’s mind as it expanded the J-20’s use, according to the Global Times.
“It is certain that the J-20, as advanced new equipment, will appear on potential battlefields, including at sea, particularly when advanced warplanes of the US like the F-35 and the F-22 have been flying near China,” the paper quoted Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert, as saying.
“Our advanced fighter jets must meet them head-on to safeguard the country’s airspace security and maritime interests,” Song said.