The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China commissioned its biggest ever military transport ship on Monday in Sansha, Hainan province. The vessel will be used to transport supplies, weapons and other equipment to various islands in the South China Sea. The Chinese military’s mouthpiece PLA Daily said the ship is 90-meter long and has a displacement of 2,700 tons.
New ship can carry tanks, trucks
The PLA Daily didn’t reveal the ship’s class, but said it was the largest vessel in the Army’s watercraft fleet. Images show the ship bearing a designation of GY820, meaning it is part of the Guangzhou Military Command. PLA soldiers guard many islands in the South China Sea. Transporting their necessary supplies and heavy-duty weapons is the Army’s responsibility, said Cao Weidong of the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute.
The Army’s ships are usually smaller compared to those of Navy because they are not meant to engage in combat duties at sea. Reports claim that the new ship is capable of carrying Type 99 main battle tanks and trucks. Beijing has been strengthening military presence in the disputed South China Sea. The Chinese claim territorial and economic rights over the entire sea, including waters close to the coast of other countries.
Japan supports the US in the South China Sea
Last week, the Chinese Navy conducted large-scale naval exercises in the South China Sea. Military experts said the drills were aimed at enhancing PLA Navy’s combat readiness and demonstrating Beijing’s determination to safeguard its sovereignty claims. Chinese military expert Li Li said the drills not only showed the country’s military presence in the South China Sea, but also reminded other countries “to be cautious.”
Separately, Japanese defense minister General Nakatani supported the US Navy’s move to sail a guided missile destroyer within 12 miles of Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Nakatani told reporters that the international community would not allow any country to unilaterally change the status quo by force. China has constructed lighthouses and airstrips on the artificial islands in an attempt to bolster military presence.