China firmly opposes US provocation in the South China Sea, two Chinese ministries said Thursday after the US sent B-52 strategic bombers into the region.
"China's principle and standpoint on the South China Sea are always clear," defense ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said at a regular press conference on Thursday.
"China firmly opposes US military aircraft's provocation in the South China Sea, and will take all necessary measures."
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at Thursday's routine press conference that China firmly opposes countries using freedom of navigation and overflight as excuses to harm other countries' sovereignty and security, disturbing regional peace and stability.
The remarks came after the US sent B-52 strategic bombers over the South China Sea this week, according to a Thursday Reuters report, quoting Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman.
The move was part of regularly scheduled operations designed to enhance US interoperability with its partners and allies in the region, Reuters quoted Eastburn as saying.
But Chinese analysts said the US was pressuring China with military action in the hope of gaining an edge in the expanding trade friction between the two countries.
Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, told the Global Times on Thursday the US was playing the military card in the South China Sea as a means to pressure China.
US President Donald Trump is preparing for the upcoming midterm elections and he wants to showcase success against China to US voters, Li said.
Chen Xiangmiao, a research fellow at the Hainan-based National Institute for the South China Sea, said the US was reassuring regional partners like the Philippines and Vietnam that "it is capable of protecting them."
The B-52 was an aggressive weapon that shows off US military power in the Asia-Pacific region, Chen told the Global Times on Thursday.
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said on Wednesday that the flights were nothing out of the ordinary and then accused China of militarizing the South China Sea, Reuters reported.
Chen said that there was no militarization of the South China Sea, only US excuses for their actions. "China only deploys necessary defensive facilities to protect itself," Chen said.
This is not the first time this year the US sent B-52s into the South China Sea.
In June, two B-52 bombers flew a training mission over the area and entered the vicinity of the Nansha Islands.