May 19, 2018

China lands nuclear-capable bombers in the South China Sea

A PLA Navy fleet in the South China Sea. Photo: VCG/VCG via Getty Images

China's air force announced in a statement on Saturday that it conducted take-off and landing training for nuclear-strike capable bombers on unidentified islands in the South China Sea, per The Guardian.

Why it matters: The South China Sea — and who exactly controls it — is one of the most hotly contested issues between the United States and China, and the U.S. has threatened consequences for increased activity in the area.

  • The U.S. response: Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement: "China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serves to raise tensions and destabilize the region.”

The big picture: A third of world trade passes through the area — and billions of barrels of oil are beneath the seabed. China's claim, which lies within a boundary it calls the "nine-dash line," includes about 80 percent of the South China Sea. An international tribunal has rejected the scope of that claim, but its ruling is unenforceable and China ignores it.

Other tensions in the South China Sea:

Another issue: Similarly, China and Japan both lay claim to islands they believe essential to their security interests in the East China Sea.

  • This month, Beijing and Tokyo established a military hotline this month to ensure a close working relationship as tensions surrounding U.S. trade and foreign policy grew.

Go deeper

Inside Trump's antifa tweet

President Trump at Cape Canaveral on May 30. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

As recently as Saturday night, senior administration officials told me that the designation of a violent cohort of far-left activists, antifa, as a terrorist organization was not being seriously discussed at the White House. But that was Saturday.

Behind the scenes: The situation changed dramatically a few hours later, after prominent conservative allies of the president, such as his friend media commentator Dan Bongino, publicly urged a tough response against people associated with antifa (short for "anti-fascist").

U.S. enters 6th day of nationwide protests over George Floyd's killing

A protest in Philadelphia on May 31. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Protests continued across the country for the sixth day in a row on Sunday, as demonstrators called for justice in response to the deaths of George Floyd, EMT Breonna Taylor, jogger Ahmaud Arbery and countless other black Americans who have suffered at the hands of racism and police brutality.

What's happening: Protestors in D.C. broke one police barricade outside the White House on Sunday evening after reportedly demonstrating for several hours. The atmosphere was still largely peaceful as of 6pm ET.

Trump privately scolded, warned by allies

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Over the past couple of days, numerous advisers both inside and outside the White House have urged the president to tone down his violent rhetoric, which many worry could escalate racial tensions and hurt him politically.

Behind the scenes: The biggest source of internal concern was Trump's escalatory tweet, "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." Some advisers said it could damage him severely with independent voters and suburban women.