The tension in the highly contested area in the South China Sea is far from over now that China has sent an electronic surveillance ship as it beefs up its presence in the region. China’s Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) has, so far, deployed six vessels in one of the world’s most important maritime zones.
Reports from Beijing-based newspaper China Daily showed that PLA has been kept many details of the mission private. This, came after China has maintained a strong presence in the region last year by deploying at least 18 ships.
The combat vessel, called as Kaiyangxing, was delivered to the North Sea Fleet in China’s Qingdao, Shandong province on Tuesday. It was described as having a top speed of 37 km/h and with a carrying capacity of 6,000 metric tons.
The vessel is also capable of all-weather operations and 24-hour surveillance on multiple targets. It is on par with battle ships from other countries with advanced military facilities, including the U.S and Russia.
The sending of Kaiyangxing came amid the decision from the U. N-backed tribunal in The Hague declaring China’s presence in the Region as violative of international laws. The decision was issued after the Philippines file a maritime dispute case against China in 2013.
South China Sea Unrest
The Philippines is by far the most vocal claimant country asserting its sovereignty in the vast maritime zone. It is joined by Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Taiwan, among other Southeast Asian countries. China, however, maintained that it has sole sovereignty in the South China Sea. At least $5 trillion worth of goods passes through this maritime zone each year.
But the relations between China and the Philippines started to improve over the past months after Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte sworn into office in June. It appeared that despite the improved relationship between the neighboring nations, China continued its assertion.
According to a report from the IHS Jane, one of the missions of the Kaiyangxing is to gather intelligence information around the region. It is part of the recent deployment of PLA in its fleets scattered in different areas, including the South Sea fleet.