SOUTH CHINA SEA tension soared this week after US President Donald Trump gave the green light for littoral combat ships to enter the region, with China feared to be working on its own military capabilities with an ambitious plan that could cause the US serious issues.
The Chinese Navy could be planning submersible missile-laden arsenal ships in order to hide stockpiles of missiles from both human eye and radar trackers, Popular Science has warned. However, as the report suggested, the new submergible ships would differ from conventional submarines because they can maintain a high speed on the water’s surface. The ship would be versatile due to its ability to use the South China Sea’s waters to travel with only the top part of the ship on display, with its weapons veiled and therefore very difficult to detect.
But, its hydroplaning hull means that should the ship need to move quickly, it can return to surface level and travel like a speedboat or amphibious armoured vehicle.
In her article for National Interest, Sarah Sicard highlighted the new project will be undertaken by two Chinese universities – the Wuhan University of Science and Technology and Huazhong University of Science and Technology and Naval University of Engineering.
The concepts have been in the works since 2011, and according to Popular Science, the diving missile ship’s “proof-of-concept is under construction at Bohai Shipbuilding Heavy Industrial Corporation, to be launched after 2020”.
The South China Sea region is congested with various claims of water ownership amongst numerous Asian nations, including the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.
The interest in the region is due to its wealth of natural resources including oil and minerals, as well as lucrative shipping lanes and military strategic importance.
Beijing has asserted its “Nine-Dash Line” claim to the territory, a controversial claim that spans the majority of the oceans, but has been deemed an illegitimate claim by international legal bodies.
The US has stepped in to help smaller nations defend their territory, culminating in this week’s patrol by Washington littoral combat ships.
The deployment signals a major shift in US strategy in the South China Sea away from reconnaissance and deterrence.
A Beijing Think Tank has now said the US is deliberately increasing its attack capability. Both ships were noted to be active in the area, where China’s claims over the region still persists.
Speaking on Tuesday, US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper confirmed the US was conducting more patrols in South China Sea all in an effort to send a signal to China.
The US “rejects attempts by any nation to use coercion or intimidation to advance international interests at the expense of others”, he said during a visit to the Philippines another country claiming the controversial region.
In 2016, the Philippines won a case in the Permanent Court of Arbitration invalidating China’s claims to almost the entire stretch of sea. China does not recognise the ruling.
The tribunal in The Hague found that China had violated sovereign Filipino rights under the United Nations Convention on Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The US ‘ attempts to undermine China in the region will not be well received by President Xi Jinping as he continues in his efforts to globalise Chinese influence.