South China Sea: US allies urged to rush to area as China launches huge assault ship

South China Sea: China to deploy large assault ship

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Speaking earlier retired US Navy captain and now defence consultant Carl Schuster demanded Western patrols sail to the South China Sea to hold back the Chinese navy. On Friday, President Xi Jinping launched the Hainan, a type 075 amphibious assault ship that will be deployed in the South China Sea at a ceremony in Sanya, in the Hainan province. The new ship, which is now China’s largest assault ship, marks Beijing’s most ‘ambitious’ amphibious assault ship with an estimated displacement weight of about 40,000 tonnes, according to reports.

According to the South China Morning post the ship can carry an estimated 30 helicopters and hundreds of troops.

The Hainan 31 is China’s first Type 075 amphibious assault ship capable of transporting almost the whole of the Chinese Marine Corps with the ability to land them in hostile territory via landing craft or helicopters as well as providing air support.

It has a full-length flight deck for helicopter operations and features a ‘well deck’ where hovercraft and armored amphibious assault vehicles can disembark from inside of the ship to launch an attack.

Military experts have suggested the deployment will cause concern with Taiwan and other countries in maritime disputes with China in the South China Sea.

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Colin Koh, a research fellow from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, said the new ship could scare China’s neighbours into responding to the “widening asymmetry” of Beijing’s military power in the region.

But the deployment prompted retired US Naval captain Carl Schuster to demand Western patrols be sent to the South China Sea immediately to exert control and keep China back from further expansion.

In a stern statement, Captain Schuster said: “Combined Vietnamese and Philippine coastguard patrols in the area of Julian Felipe reef will deter any further aggression there.

“I also think if you were to invite the US coast to go with you that would send a very strong signal as well.” 

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Song Zhongping, Hong Kong-based military affairs commentator and former PLA instructor, told the South China Morning Post the Hainan assault vessel will be serving “under the Southern Theatre Command”, Beijing’s military group operating in the South China Sea.

He added: “It does not mean it will only be responsible for the South China Sea.

“It will also be used for missions around Taiwan and other cross-theatre command tasks.

“But presumably it will mainly be for the South China Sea”.

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Meanwhile, the Philippine foreign ministry said maritime officials had observed the “continued unauthorised presence and activities” of 160 Chinese fishing and militia vessels around the disputed Spratly Islands and Scarborough shoal, as of April 20.

They said: “The continued swarming and threatening presence of the Chinese vessels creates an atmosphere of instability.”

The ministry went on to say: “It is a blatant disregard of the commitments by China to promote peace and stability in the region.”

President Rodrigo Duterte also stated he was prepared to send his military ships in the South China Sea to “stake a claim” over oil and mineral resources in the disputed part of the strategic waterway.

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