China deploys most advanced warship
MANILA, Philippines - China has deployed its newest and most advanced warship in the South China Sea, the Taiwan-owned China Times has reported.
The deployment of the Liuzhou-type 054A warship to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s South China Fleet before New Year has brought the total of Chinese ships in the hotly contested region to six, according to China Times.
The report said that the warship is not a new design but has the latest technological advantages compared to other 054-class Chinese warships.
“Liuzhou is currently considered as one of China’s most advanced surface combat Type 054 vessels. It has a stealthy hull design with sloped surfaces and radar absorbent materials. Equipped with a medium-range air defense missile system, the vessel is capable (of) destroying air targets at a distance of up to 50 kilometers. Although it is not as lethal as the Russian-built Soyremenny class and domestic destroyers,” the China Times reported.
The warship is now under the command of the PLA’s Navy South Sea Fleet based in Zhanajiang, Quangdong province.
Analysts believe that the Chinese PLA Navy will deploy the Liuzhou to protect Chinese interests in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have interlocking territorial claims to the region’s islands, reefs, sandbars, cays and atolls, believed to be sitting atop huge mineral and oil deposits.
The Western Command (Wescom) has for its part announced that it is increasing aerial and territorial patrols within the country’s exclusive economic zone over the West Philippine Sea.
Late last year, Beijing announced its deployment of the Chinese maritime patrol boat and will begin enforcing its maritime law starting Jan. 1, to include interdiction and boarding of foreign ships that sail without prior clearance into its so-called maritime domain that covers almost the entire region.
“We are increasing our aerial and territorial patrols to validate that report. We are ready to enforce the Philippine and international laws,” Wescom commander Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban earlier told The STAR.
Wescom, based in Palawan, has operational jurisdiction over almost the entire West Philippine Sea, including the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in the Spratlys.
The Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom), on the other hand, is directly responsible for protecting the country’s maritime domain in the northern area of the Spratlys, including Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, a rock formation only 124 nautical miles from Zambales.
China’s vessels patrol disputed territory
Meanwhile, two Chinese marine surveillance ships began patrolling on Tuesday the disputed South China Sea areas where offshore oil platforms are located.
China’s State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said in a statement that its two vessels, aided by a surveillance aircraft, patrolled waters near the Beibu Gulf of the South China Sea, where Vietnam alleged that one of its seismic survey ships was sabotaged by Chinese fishing boats.
The SOA said the vessels Haijian 75 and Haijian 84 and the surveillance aircraft B-3843 patrolled the same waters.
State-run Xinhua news agency reported that one of the oil platforms, Ledong 22-1, told patrolling fleet that no oil leak had taken place and they had not been harassed by foreign vessels.
The SOA said Chinese marine surveillance ships carried out 58 patrolling missions on the South China Sea in 2012.
In December, the Philippines issued a note verbale to the Chinese embassy in Manila seeking clarification on China’s new policy that will allow police from the start of 2013 to board foreign vessels that enter disputed areas in the South China Sea. – With Pia Lee-Brago