The controversy stirred by the flight of two B-52 bombers from Andersen Air Force Base into airspace newly claimed by China has led Guam’s congressional delegate to underscore Guam’s importance to the nation’s security.
The B-52s launched from and returned to Andersen Air Force Base Tuesday, and the Defense Department said the flights were part of ongoing joint military exercises between the United States and Japan, according to the Defense Department.
“Our island has again shown that we are a strategic point to defend our nation’s interests and the interests of our allies in the Asia-Pacific region,” Delegate Madeleine Bordallo said yesterday.
The B-52s took off from Andersen three days after China announced its expanded air defense zone, and international news organizations, including the BBC, described it as a “defiance” of China’s move.
The expanded air zone includes airspace above the Senkaku Islands, which Japan controls, USA Today reported.
China’s declaration of an expanded “air defense zone” also came with a demand that other countries must submit flight plans before sending aircraft into the area. The Defense Department announced it doesn’t intend to submit any flight plan to China.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the United States views China’s move in the East China Sea as “a destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo in the region.”
“This unilateral action increases the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculations,” Hagel said in a statement on the Defense Department website.
China’s announcement “will not in any way change how the United States conducts military operations in the region,” Hagel said.
B-52s are stationed on Guam as part of a rotational bomber presence on the island.
“The strategic bomber presence in Guam is an important component of U.S. defense capabilities in our region, and this exercise demonstrates our ability to deter aggression and our resolve to defend our allies,” Bordallo said. “However it is important that any territorial disputes in the region be resolved by diplomacy and peaceful means.”