South China Sea war fears: Beijing unleashes new destroyers in warning to US

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China launched its eighth Type 055 and 25th Type 052D destroyers on Sunday, in the latest display of strength from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy. The military presentation coincided with the latest voyage by the US in the contested South China Sea.

The Type 052D Kunming-class is one of the most advanced guided-missile destroyers – weighing 7,500 tonnes and 157 metres in length.

The vessel can also be equipped with vertical launchers for eight anti-aircraft, anti-submarine or tactical cruise missiles.

Meanwhile, the Type 055 warship is one of the largest carriers in the world at 180 metres.

The unveiling of the two destroyers also comes amid a key milestone for the Chinese military, after the first domestically-produced aircraft carrier set sail.

On Tuesday, the Shadong ship, capable of carrying 44 aircrafts, was deployed to the Bohai Sea as part of a 22-day military drill.

The unveiling comes less than 48 hours after a US navy warship transited through the narrow Taiwan-Strait.

The US navy said the Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey conducted a “routine Taiwan Strait transit” on Sunday, in accordance with international law.

The voyage through the highly contested waterway was the second operation of its kind in the past two weeks.

In an apparent warning message to China, US Seventh Fleet representative Reann Mommsen, insisted the crew would continue to sail wherever it wanted to in according with the rules.

He said: “The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.

“The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

Last month, tensions between the Washington and Beijing threatened to erupt after the Guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin sailed through the strait on August 18, in what China’s military called an “extremely dangerous” move.

The South China Sea is one of the most contested stretches of water in the world with its rich fishing grounds and global shipping lanes.

A 2015 US Department of Defense report found an estimated $5.3trillion (£4million) worth of goods are shuttled through the waterways every year.

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China has already established military outposts on the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands – two disputed archipelagos in the region.

Under international law, a large part of the South China Sea comes under Vietnamese sovereignty.

However, Beijing disagrees and says that the entire waterway up to the coasts of the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan belongs to China – a claim rejected by an international court of arbitration in 2016.

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