The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy has launched a new electronic reconnaissance ship, state media said yesterday, the latest addition to an expanding fleet as Beijing’s new assertiveness to territorial claims in the South China Sea fuels tensions.
The PLA Navy now operates six electronic reconnaissance vessels, the official English-language China Daily newspaper said, adding that it “has never made public so many details about its intelligence collection ships.”
Last year, the PLA Navy commissioned 18 ships, including missile destroyers, corvettes and guided missile frigates, the newspaper said.
China has also said it is building a second aircraft carrier. China’s only carrier is the second-hand, Soviet-built Liaoning, which this week unsettled neighbors with drills in the disputed South China Sea.
The new electronic reconnaissance ship, the CNS Kaiyangxing, hull code 856, was on Tuesday delivered to a combat support flotilla of the North Sea Fleet at the eastern port of Qingdao, the China Daily said.
“The Kaiyangxing is capable of conducting all-weather, round-the-clock reconnaissance on multiple and different targets,” the newspaper said, citing Chinese defense media, which compared it to sophisticated vessels only produced by countries with advanced militaries, such as the US and Russia.
Regional naval officials have said Chinese ships now increasingly track and shadow US and Japanese warships in the South and East China seas, even during routine deployments.
SOUTH CHINA SEA
China claims almost of the South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas, through which about US$5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year, and has been building up military facilities such as runways on the islands it controls.
Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam also have claims.
China has said it has no hostile intent and wants to manage the dispute through bilateral talks with the other claimants. However, Beijing has been involved in a diplomatic spat with Washington over ship and aircraft patrols in the region.
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