Beijing : Rapidly expanding its naval fleet, China has commissioned its 31st stealth warship as it got its battle group under its first aircraft carrier ready amid tensions with the US and other nations over its assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy has commissioned its 31st Type-056 class corvette, marking a new addition to the world’s largest fleet of modern corvettes, official media reported.

With a maximum speed of 52 km/h, the ship features good manoeuvrability, a high-level of automation and stealth capability, and is capable of hitting aircraft, ships and submarines, the PLA Daily, the official organ of the Chinese military said.

The CNS Ezhou with a hull number of 513 was delivered to the East Sea Fleet in a naval base in East China’s Fujian province. The ship will perform coastal patrol, fishery escort, anti-submarine and anti-ship operations. It is the second ship that has been commissioned to the PLA Navy since the start of 2017, following the CNS Kaiyangxing, a Type-815A class electronic reconnaissance ship, which now belongs to the North Sea Fleet.

Russia has the world’s largest corvette group that consists of about 80 vessels, but most of them were built in the 1980s and 1990s and cannot compete with the Type-056 in terms of technology and equipment, the report quoted defence observers as saying, adding that China’s fleet is now the biggest force of modern corvettes of all navies.

PLAN has expanded its fleet rapidly in the past ten years taking delivery of about 100 advanced ships and submarines as well as a large number of new aircraft. It commissioned around 20 new ships in 2015 as well as last year and is believed to have deployed several new- generation nuclear submarines during this period, state-run China Daily reported.

The Navy now has a carrier battle group headed by its first aircraft carrier Liaoning, which just completed a long-distance, live-fire drill in the Western Pacific Ocean and South China Sea. A second aircraft carrier is being built with plans for the third.

The Navy’s aviation force has carried out several long-range, combat-ready drills as China appears bracing itself for renewed tensions in the South China Sea under Donald Trump Presidency.

Trump’s Secretary of State nominee, Rex Tillerson in his testimony before the US Senate had said that America should block China from accessing islands in the disputed SCS. He likened China’s island-building in the SCS to “Russia’s taking of Crimea”..–PTI

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