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China slams US over “provocative” use of B-52 bombers in the South China Sea

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BEIJING — Two US B-52 bombers have flown near islands in the flashpoint South China Sea this month in a “serious military provocation”, Beijing said, as tensions simmer in the disputed waterway.

China insists it has sovereignty over virtually all of the resource-rich sea, conflicting with the various claims of several neighboring nations, and US activity in the area has provoked Beijing’s ire several times in recent months.

“In the morning of 10 December, two US B-52 bombers entered air space over the Chinese Nansha islands [Spratly Islands] and nearby areas without authorisation,” Beijing’s defence ministry said.

“This behaviour is a serious military provocation which complicates the general situation in the South China Sea, [contributing] to the militarisation of the region.”

During the mission by the two B-52 bombers, one of the aircraft unintentionally flew within two nautical miles of an artificially constructed island, the Wall Street Journal quoted Pentagon officials as saying.

This may have been because of bad weather conditions, according to officials quoted in the newspaper.

Washington said it routinely conducts training missions in the region, including the South China Sea, adding that it was investigating the reports of the bomber near the Spratly chain.

“The Chinese have raised concerns with us about the flight path of a recent training mission. We are looking into the matter,” Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright said.

“I will also say that for this mission there was no intention of flying within 12 nautical miles of any feature. This was not a Freedom of Navigation Operation.”

The United States has previously argued for its right to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and is critical of China building artificial islands there.

It has flown other B-52 bombers and sailed a guided missile destroyer near some of the constructions in recent months.

In October, Washington infuriated Beijing when the USS Lassen guided missile destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of at least one land formation claimed by China in the disputed Spratlys.

“The United States has continuously sent military ships and planes to make a show of force and create tensions in the waters and airspace [of the South China Sea],” Beijing’s defence ministry said.

“The Chinese army will take all necessary measures to defend the sovereignty and the security of the country.”

China’s military conducted war games in the area this week, with warships, submarines and fighter jets deployed over a “range of several thousand kilometers”, the People’s Liberation Army Daily said.

Beijing’s claims in the sea conflict with those of its regional neighbors Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei.

AFP

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Zimbabwe’s President Mnangagwa narrowly escapes explosion at party rally

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HARARE — Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa narrowly escaped injury in an explosion on Saturday which has rocked a stadium where Zimbabwe’s president was addressing a campaign rally, with state media calling it an assassination attempt but saying the president was not hurt.

President Mnangagwa was whisked to a state house in Bulawayo, where he had been speaking ahead of next month’s historic election, the first since longtime leader Robert Mugabe stepped down.

The explosion occurred as the president, accompanied by other politicians, was walking off the stage at the White City stadium after addressing thousands of supporters in advance of next month’s vote.

Mnangagwa, the 75-year-old leader of ZANU-PF, was not hurt and taken to safety, officials said. However, witnesses said several people were injured, including the Vice-President.

Several others including number security personnel, the wife of fellow Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, the environment minister and the deputy speaker of parliament also suffered wounds.

Agencies

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