As Biden was engaged in a May 24 Tokyo meeting of the Quad (Australia, India, Japan, and the United States), Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping gave Biden and the Quad leaders a “combined” nuclear message.
On May 24, four People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Xian H-6K bombers and two Russian Air Force Tupolev Tu-95MS bombers conducted the fourth joint China-Russia bomber exercise since 2019. This time, they flew over the Sea of Japan with a lengthy diversion south of the Miyako Strait to a region east of Taiwan, where they could launch potentially nuclear-armed cruise missiles against Taiwan and U.S. bases on Guam.
PLAAF H-6K bombers are armed with six CJ-20 precision-guided land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs) with a range of 930 miles, which can be armed with a tactical nuclear or non-nuclear warhead. In all, the PLA has about 125 H-6K/J/N bombers that can potentially launch salvos of 750 CJ-20 LACMs.
Russian Tu-95MS bombers, likely flying out of the Ukrainka air base in the Amur Oblast, are the latest 1980s-built versions of a four-engine turboprop bomber that first entered service in 1956, with about 60 in Russian service today.
Most carry about 16 1,500-mile-range Kh-55 LACMs or eight of the 1,800-mile-range Kh-101 LACMs that can be armed with nuclear warheads.
China and Russia held previous joint bomber exercises in 2019, 2020, and 2021, with the latter exercise featuring a separate Russian bomber sortie that flew to the west, likely simulating nuclear strikes against U.S. bases in Alaska and U.S. Navy strategic nuclear missile submarines based near Seattle.
These China-Russia bomber exercises are perhaps the most visible indicator that Russia intends to support China should it seek to impose a blockade or even invade Taiwan.