China adds assault ship and two other vessels to naval fleet

In a photo taken on April 23, 2019, Chinese sailors stand on the deck of the new type 055 guide missile destroyer Nanchang of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China deployed its first advanced amphibious assault ship and two other new vessels in a commissioning ceremony attended by President Xi Jinping, local media reported.

The Hainan, the Dalian and the Changzheng-18 were placed in active service last Friday (April 23) at a naval port in southern China's Hainan Province, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. The ceremony took place on the same day that the People's Liberation Army Navy celebrated its 72nd anniversary.

The Hainan is China's first Type 075 amphibious assault ship, while the Changzheng-18 is a nuclear-powered submarine and the Dalian a Type 055 destroyer, the Communist Party-backed Global Times reported, citing military analysts.

Beijing's military buildup, combined with moves to fortify its hold on disputed territory in the South China Sea, has raised fears that it could look to deny the US military access to waters off China's coastline.

In turn, Washington has increasingly sought to demonstrate the right for US vessels and aircraft to travel through what it considers international waters and airspace.

Tensions have simmered between China and its neighbours in the South China Sea, with the Philippines most recently protesting the presence of Chinese vessels near disputed reefs.

The United States has also aired concerns over what it describes as China's "maritime militia" in the area, backing the Philippines - a longtime military ally.

China has said that its vessels' presence in the South China Sea is normal and legitimate.

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