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The eastern superpower’s first Type 075 amphibious assault ship was pictured at a base of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Sanya, the south’s Hainan province, near Taiwan. Local media reports claim the ship was built in Shanghai but left in October.
It comes as China’s defence ministry spokesman Col. Wu Qian said the US arms deal with Taiwan could “seriously endanger” China’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity and “seriously undermine” peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
The Type 075 is a 32,000-ton vessel which would be China’s most powerful amphibious assault ship.
The vessel gives the Chinese Navy the option to deploy helicopter attacks on naval vessels, enemy ground forces or submarines.
It can also deploy landing craft and troops.
Images of the warship, according to Taipei-based SET News Channel circulated on social media.
Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told Chinese state-owned publication The Global Times the ship needs to undergo more sea trials, and the South China Sea is more suitable because it has bigger waves and stronger winds.
China’s first Type 075 was launched in September 2019 and successfully completed its first sea trial in August.
Testing is necessary before a vessel enters the PLA Navy.
Mr Zhongping added that both the South China Sea and East China Sea fleets are tasked with operations around Taiwan so it could join either fleet.
Shandong, a Chinese aircraft carrier, also underwent testing and training in the South China Sea in November 2019 before its commission the following month.
It travelled through the Taiwan Straits, which is regarded as a preferred training route as it is short.
It is too early to tell whether the Type 075 will go into service, but it appears to be undergoing preparation for testing in the area.
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The introduction would add another layer of tension to ongoing disputes in the South China Sea.
It comes as China’s President Xi Jinping told his troops to prepare for war as he addressed China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Marine Corps, asking them to “focus your minds and energy on preparing to go to war and stay highly vigilant.”
Beijing has also announced sanctions to major US firms following their multi-billion arms deal with Taiwan.
China, who believes it has sovereignty over the region, is locked in maritime disputes with other coastal states, including Vietnam and the Philippines.
Its militia occupies territory claimed by both countries.
Speaking on Wednesday, Col. Qian said of the US-Taiwan arms deal: “Somebody who plays with fire will get burnt.
“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army will never allow anyone or any force to split the sacred territory of the motherland.”
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