TOKYO -- Japan Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) fighter aircraft conducted joint drills with a nuclear-capable U.S. B-52 strategic bomber over the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan on Sept. 27, Japanese government figures have revealed.
It is unusual for such joint drills over the East China Sea to be made public, as Japan and China remain locked in a territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the sea's waters. The move is apparently aimed at keeping China in check amid growing tensions between Beijing and Washington, including over an intensifying trade war.
According to the government figures, the B-52 bomber based on the U.S. island territory of Guam flew over the East China Sea to the Sea of Japan. Along the way it converged with 10 or more ASDF jets from several bases, including Naha Air Base in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, and Tsuiki Air Base in Fukuoka Prefecture in southern Japan. The strategic bomber and ASDF aircraft then practiced various flight formations.
While the B-52 bomber can be armed with nuclear weapons, some of the aircraft are no longer permitted to carry atomic arms under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United States and Russia.
Joint drills over the Sea of Japan between ASDF jets and U.S. Air Force B-52s in August 2017 and July 2018 have been made public.
(Japanese original by Hiroshi Maetani, City News Department)