The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) H-6K long-range bomber and Su-30 multirole fighter jets flew through the Tsushima Strait for the first time on Dec. 18 according to a statement from the military.
The statement added that the aircraft carried out training in international airspace above the Sea of Japan after crossing the strait.
The Tsushima Strait is the eastern channel of the Korea Strait, which lies between Korea and Japan, connecting the Sea of Japan (East Sea of Korea), the Yellow Sea (West Sea of Korea) and the East China Sea.
Speaking from an unidentified air base in eastern China, Senior Colonel Shen Jinke, an Air Force spokesman, said reconnaissance planes also took part, without elaborating on the models.
“The operation is part of the Air Force’s annual training plan and complied with international laws and norms. It wasn’t aimed at any specific nation, region or target,” he said.
The statement said the Sea of Japan does not belong to Japan, and the Tsushima Strait is not part of any country’s territorial waters, so any nation has the freedom to sail or fly through them.
Xian H-6 is a licence-built version of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16 twin-engine jet strategic bomber, built for PLAAF by Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation (XAC).
In 2007, the PLAAF introduced the bomber’s latest variant, H-6K, fitted with a more powerful and fuel-efficient engines and modern electronics and capable of carrying air-launched cruise missiles. According to United States Department of Defense, this will give the PLAAF a long range standoff offensive air capability with precision-guided munitions (PGM).
The bomber can carry a payload of up to 12 tons. The H-6K can carry up to seven YJ-12 supersonic anti-ship missiles or CJ-20 subsonic land-attack cruise missiles.
China is estimated to currently operate around 120 of the aircraft.