Announcement of new electronic surveillance ship a rare move for China's military
China's Navy added 18 ships last year, report says
China’s Navy has added a new model of electronic reconnaissance ship to its fleet, as Beijing seeks to assert its military might in the South China Sea.
The CNS Kaiyangxing or Mizar went into service earlier this week in the eastern port city of Qingdao, the China Daily reported.
The paper said divulging details of its intelligence fleet was “a rare move” for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN.)
Collin Koh Swee Lean, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said that revealing the ship’s launch served two geopolitical purposes.
“Beijing can claim that it has been transparent with its military buildup, and this helps feed the strategic narrative about having a defensive defense policy that it upholds,” he said.
“Second, this serves as a form of deterrence against would-be adversaries. I suspect this is also a signal to the US – or anyone else keen to ramp up naval activities in the disputed waters – that the PLAN has the capability to monitor their activities.”
However, Lean said that the vessel was not a combat ship and would be vulnerable without proper protection by other forces.
The South China Sea has become a political hot potato between Washington and Beijing as China has built up military bases on disputed islands in the contested waters.
President-elect Donald Trump has shown himself to be increasingly willing to challenge Beijing over a range of issues, making ties between the two countries volatile.
Last month, China seized a US underwater drone off the coast of the Philippines and sent its aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, to hold drills in the South China Sea.
The report said the PLA Navy commissioned a total of 18 ships in 2016. It is also building a domestically designed aircraft carrier in Dalian.
The paper said that Navy operates six electronic surveillance vessels. It said the Kaiyangxing had a maximum speed of 20 knots, or 37 kilometers per hour.
CNN’s Josh Berlinger contributed to this report