Amid reports that China is building its first aircraft carrier to counter growing US presence in the neighbourhood, Chinese navy has added two large sea surveillance ships to its fleet to “better protect” the country’s maritime rights and interests. The two patrol ships, in the 1,000- and 1,500-tonne classes, respectively, were added to the North Sea fleet of the China Maritime Surveillance Force in the eastern coastal city of Qingdao, state-run Xinhua news agency reported Friday.
“They will be used to crack down on violations of China’s maritime interests, illegal use of Chinese seawaters and damages to its sea environment, resources and infrastructures,” Fang Jianmeng, head of the North Sea branch of the State Oceanic Administration said.
These ships part of 13 new warships being deployed by China were commissioned amid increasing tensions with Japan over disputed Diaoyu islands, also called Sankau islands currently under the control of Japan.
The ships were part of a USD 241-million plan unveiled by the Government in 1999 to add thirteen 1,000-tonne-plus sea patrol ships and five patrol helicopters to patrol China’s waters. The first group of six large patrol ships and two helicopters joined the China Maritime Surveillance Force under the State Oceanic Administration in November 2005.
An official of the China Maritime Surveillance Force told Xinhua that his agency had finished building the second group of three patrol ships. Three helicopters have been purchased to be deployed on them. “The remaining four vessels will be put into use before June this year. The fleet expansion is taking place as China is “facing an increasingly heavier burden of safeguarding its seas rights and interests,” the official, Wu said.
“Given the large sea territory, China’s maritime surveillance force remains weak, even after all 13 patrol ships join the fleet. They’re far from meeting all of our demands,” he said.