“China is first and foremost keen to intensify measures closer to shore, but pushing the envelope further out into the Western Pacific also serves the purpose of enhancing deterrence against the US,” Collin Koh, a Singapore-based maritime security researcher, told the South China Morning Post.
The exercises have an “overall strategic aim of raising the costs” for the US “if [Washington] chooses to intervene militarily in, say, Taiwan or the East China Sea,“ Koh explained.
H-6K bombers have been conducting “not infrequent” flybys past Guam and Hawaii, US defense officials said Tuesday. While the US believes it could emerge victorious from a conflict with North Korea, Washington is worried about “the way things are going” as it relates to China’s regional military exercises.
"When we look at the capabilities China is developing, we've got to make sure we maintain the ability to meet our alliance commitments in the Pacific," Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Tuesday.
Chinese military analyst Zhou Chenming told SCMP it was “absurd” to deploy H-6Ks near Guam “because Chinese missiles – or even nuclear weapons – can do the same job without dispatching personnel.”
According to Koh, without mid-flight refueling capabilities and fighter jet escorts, the H-6s, which are outdated license-to-build models of the Soviet Tu-16 Badger, would be “sitting ducks” in combat.