China delivers a sophisticated anti-aircraft system in a veiled operation to Serbia this weekend, with a total of 12 transport planes provided in two batches.
The events occur amid Western concerns that an arms buildup in the Balkans during the heated time of the Russia-Ukraine war could jeopardize the peace in the region.
Serbia is Russia’s ally, and it maintains a close relationship with China.
Shortly after six Y-20s large transport planes arrived in Serbia last Saturday, April 9, China’s Observer Network (Guancha.cn)—one of China’s largest news outlets—reported that another fleet of six Y-20 transport jets flew to an air force base in Belgrade, Serbia’s capital city.
According to real-time aircraft flight tracking FlightRadar24, the second fleet of six Chinese Y-20s passed through Turkish airspace on Sunday, April 10, and arrived at the Batajnica Air Base in Belgrade’s outskirts.
One day before, the first cargo had landed in Belgrade but at a commercial airport, reportedly carrying HQ-22 surface-to-air missile systems for the Serbian military.
According to The Warzone, the Chinese cargo planes attracted attention because they “flew en masse as opposed to a series of single-aircraft flights.” The military magazine said the Chinese Y-20s presence in Europe is also “a fairly new development.”
Experts have said that the fleet flew over the territories of at least two NATO members, Turkey and Bulgaria, exhibiting China’s growing global reach. China claimed they only delivered “regular military supplies” to the Serbian military.
The Chinese state-run Global Times said that the weekend flights “could be the largest overseas operation by the Chinese domestically developed large transport plane yet, displaying the country’s strategic transport capabilities.”
Moreover, the West fears that Russia and China’s arming of Serbia could induce the Balkan country towards another war, especially against its former province of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008. Serbia, Russia, and China don’t recognize Kosovo’s independence, while the U.S. and most Western countries do.