China commissions homegrown missile frigate amid naval buildup

People's Liberation Army soldiers standing guard in the Spratly Islands on Feb 10.
People's Liberation Army soldiers standing guard in the Spratly Islands on Feb 10.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (Reuters) - China commissioned a domestically produced missile frigate this week, the official People's Liberation Army Daily reported on Thursday (Feb 25), as Beijing works to expand and modernise its navy.

The announcement came only two days after a senior United States military official said China was "clearly militarising" the South China Sea. The United States is worried by China's military buildup to assert dominance in the region.

The People's Liberation Daily said the frigate, with a displacement of more than 4,000 tonnes, has powerful long-range surveillance and anti-aircraft capabilities.

Ships of that kind can be used alone or along with other naval forces to attack enemy surface ships, the report said.

The frigate, called the Xiangtan, is one of 22 vessels of its class in service, according to state media reports.

Beijing has invested billions developing its homegrown weapons industry to support its growing maritime ambitions in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than US$5 trillion in global trade passes every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.

Beijing has also cast an eye towards foreign markets for its comparatively low-cost technology. Its total military budget in 2015 was 886.9 billion yuan, up 10 per cent from a year earlier.

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