(Reuters) – The United States, United Kingdom and Australia held joint air exercises on Wednesday over the Nevada desert and region as part of an effort to simulate cutting-edge combat operations against Chinese fighters and air defenses.
Reuters followed British forces for several hours during the three-week Red Flag exercises, organized by the United States, aboard the British KC-2 Voyager refueling tanker aircraft, which on Wednesday provided fuel for U.S. and British fighters.
U.S. Air Force Colonel Jared J. Hutchinson, commander of the 414th Combat Training Squadron that commands Red Flag, said the annual exercises are not tied to any recent events. On Saturday, a U.S. fighter jet shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina, raising tensions.
“(China is) just the compass challenge that we train to be ready for…. We believe that if we’re ready for China, we’re ready for anybody,” Hutchinson said, citing US policy.
At the heart of the exercises was addressing the vast distances that the United States, United Kingdom and Australia would face when operating in the Pacific and improving the interoperability of the three countries’ Air Forces.
The U.S. government identifies China as a strategic priority of its Armed Forces, even as it devotes billions of dollars to supporting Ukraine to repel Russian forces that have invaded the country.
China considers Biden’s comments on Xi ‘totally irresponsible’
(AFP) China’s government has deemed “totally irresponsible” comments by US President Joe Biden, who said that China’s head of state Xi Jinping faces “enormous problems.”
“Can you think of any other world leader who would trade places with Xi Jinping? I can’t think of any,” Biden commented in an interview with the PBS NewsHour program.
“This man has enormous problems,” most notably “an economy that is not working very well,” the U.S. president added, before noting that Xi “also has great potential.”
Biden made these statements after the U.S. military shot down a Chinese balloon flying over the United States on Saturday that Washington said was a spying device.
“These words from the United States are totally irresponsible and violate the basic rules of diplomatic etiquette,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Thursday.
“China expresses its deep displeasure and firm rejection,” he said at a regular press conference.
When asked about the balloon, Mao Ning reiterated that it was a civilian device.
“The United States says that this balloon was part of a supposed fleet […]. Most likely, these statements are part of a war of opinion against China,” he emphasized.
“The international community knows very well who is the world champion in espionage and surveillance,” the spokeswoman said, referring to the United States.
China confirmed Thursday that it turned down a phone call from U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who wanted to speak with his Chinese counterpart, Wei Fenghe, after the balloon was shot down.
Beijing rejected the call after the decision to down the balloon, an “irresponsible” act by the United States that did not create “a climate conducive to dialogue,” a Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman said Thursday.
Joe Biden often describes the US-China relationship as the most important in the world.
Biden and Xi met in November last year during the G20 summit of countries in Bali, the first meeting since Biden assumed the presidency in 2021. Since then, they have talked by phone or video call on five occasions.
*** Translated by the DEFCONPress FYI team ***