China launched a long-range bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons over the South China Sea to send a message to President-elect Donald Trump, U.S. officials say.
The Xian H-6 bomber, often accompanied by fighter jets, flew along the demarcation line between China and disputed territories, including Taiwan, U.S. officials told Fox News on Friday.
The response comes after an unprecedented phone call between Trump and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. The 10-minute conversation between the two was the first by a U.S. president-elect or president since 1979 when President Jimmy Carter cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
Taiwan was considered a part of “One China,” leading to protests from Beijing, The Independent reported.
The U.S. took up the policy in 1972 following meetings between former President Richard Nixon and Chairman Mao Tse-tung, and it was later reinforced by Carter.
Image via Ministry of Defense Joint Staff Japan
Under “One China,” the U.S. maintains unofficial diplomatic ties with Taiwan while recognizing Beijing as the sole leader of China, which sees Taiwan as a renegade country.
The Pentagon was reportedly notified about the flight on Friday. It was the first long-range flight along the demarcation line since March 2015, officials told Fox.
The Xian H-6 is the Chinese equivalent of Russia’s Tupolev Tu-16 jet bomber and has been used by China to test nuclear devices.
But depending on the types of missiles, the range could be extended up to 250 miles and target both aircraft and ballistic missiles.
Admiral Harry Harris, head of U.S. Pacific Command, has repeatedly given warnings over the last year about Chinese military build-up in the region.
China has been spotted by American intelligence satellites getting ready to ship advanced surface-to-air missiles to contested islands in the South China Sea.
Officials at the White House were reportedly in talks with Chinese leadership after Trump’s phone call with President Tsai.
Federal officials have reassured China that the U.S. still sticks to the “One China” policy, which does not recognize Taiwan as its own sovereign nation.
Feature Image via Flickr / Gage Skidmore