China launched a powerful new type of naval destroyer Wednesday in a display of military might that comes amid high tensions in the disputed South China Sea.
According to China’s national news agency, Xinhua, the new 10,000-metric-ton ship was designed and produced in China and is equipped with “new air defense, anti-missile, anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons.” It’s now set to undergo a series of tests before being fully operational.
The state-sponsored newspaper Global Times reported that the ship is believed to be the first Type 055 destroyer produced by China. The destroyer, which will reportedly be equipped with 100 vertical guided missile tubes and feature stealth characteristics, is roughly equivalent in size to the Arleigh Burke–class of destroyers currently operated by the U.S. Navy, which includes the U.S.S. Fitzgerald, the ship that collided with a cargo vessel last week off the coast of Japan.
Chinese state media claims that the country commissioned the construction of 18 new ships last year alone, and this past April, China launched its first domestically made aircraft carrier. By 2020, the country is expected to be sailing about 270 warships, submarines, and short-range military vessels — approximately the same number as the U.S., according to the Center for Naval Analysis.
China continues to increase its spending on defense as it seeks to defend the territory it has claimed — sometimes illegally — in the South China Sea, the waters between China, Vietnam, and the Philippines through which $5 trillion in trade passes each year. It is also believed there are large natural gas and oil reserves below the seafloor.
The U.S. has continued to ramp up pressure on China, which has gone so far in its attempts to lay claim to South China Sea waters that it has built man-made islands, to allow trade to pass freely; the U.S. Navy has repeatedly sent vessels into disputed areas on what it calls “freedom of navigation operations.” Both the U.S. and China have accused each other of militarizing the region.