The appearance of a picture of China’s second Type 052D guided missile destroyer on the Internet recently has aroused speculation in China that the nation’s most advanced version of the warship is ready for the sea.
The TV station HBTV in Hubei Province reported that the vessel in the picture was decorated with Chinese flags and other trappings suggesting it was ready for launch.
It is not unusual for China to release pictures of its new self-developed weapons to Internet users before confirming their existence, HBTV said.
Political commentator Zhang Bin (張斌) told HBTV that the launch of the destroyer would be a milestone in China’s naval buildup, as it would send a veiled warning to other countries, especially Japan, which is embroiled in a territorial dispute with China over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), known in Japan as the Senkakus.
The man likely to become Japan’s next prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said after his party won the Dec. 16 parliamentary elections, that Japan’s sovereignty over the Diaoyutais is beyond dispute, Zhang said, but the launch of China’s second Type 052D destroyer would force Abe to lower his voice when making similar claims in future.
The timing of the appearance of the picture on the Internet after Abe’s remarks could not be a coincidence, Zhang said.
He said that a picture of China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, appeared on the Internet on Sept. 25, shortly after US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta visited Beijing.
A picture of China’s stealth fighter jet J-31 was posted on the Internet on Nov. 5 during the peak of the Sino-Japanese dispute over the Diaoyutais. And a picture showing the successful test flight of China’s J-15 fighter jets on its aircraft carrier appeared on Nov. 25, shortly after US President Barack Obama visited three Southeast Asian countries, including China’s close allies Myanmar and Cambodia.
As a successor to the Tyuop052C, the 052D destroyer has been billed as China’s version of the US state-of-the-art warship Aegis. It is equipped with 64 vertical missile launch cells, allowing for quick firing of anti-air, anti-ship and ground-attack missiles, which is sure to change the regional military balance significantly.