US flies B-52 bombers near contested islands in the South China Sea

(CNN)Two US B-52 bombers flew near contested islands in the South China Sea Monday, according to US Pacific Air Forces.

"Two US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers departed Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and participated in a routine training mission" in "the vicinity of the South China Sea," US Pacific Air Forces said in a statement.
"This recent mission is consistent with international law and United States' long-standing commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific," the statement added.
    While the US routinely flies bombers in the vicinity of the South China Sea as part of its long standing "Continuous Bomber Presence" missions, 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.
    In September, a Chinese warship came within 45 yards of the destroyer USS Decatur, forcing the US vessel to maneuver to avoid a collision, and the US Navy labeled China's actions "unsafe and unprofessional."
    That incident took place while the Decatur was conducting a "Freedom of Navigation Operation," which involved sailing within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson reefs in the Spratly Islands.
    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.
    China's emplacement of those missiles gives Beijing "the potential to exert national control over international waters and airspace through which over three trillion dollars in goods travel every year," US Navy Adm. Phil Davidson, the commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, said Saturday at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia.
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