Image credit: China defense blogspot

As tensions mounts in the West Philippine Sea, China has armed its newest Coast Guard ship with sophisticated weaponry according to the state-run military newspaper, the Global Times.

Upon completion of the ship, it will be deployed in the hotly contested West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the newspaper said.

According to reports, China has equipped their ship with 76-millimeter rapid fire guns, auxiliary guns, and anti-aircraft machine guns, raising serious concerns from other countries which also have overlapping claims in the contested sea.

Defense analysts said that China’s move shows its blatant attempt to control highly strategic shipping lanes and to exploit maritime resources.

A photo taken by the Japan Coast Guard on Dec. 22 shows a Chinese coast guard ship equipped with what appear to be gun turrets (circled) cruising in a sea area near the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. Image source: Japan Times

Beijing reportedly deployed a similar ship near Senkaku island group, a Japanese controlled territory in the East China Sea, raising the already heightened tensions between the two countries.

In 2015, reports have emerged that China was conducting a full-blown construction of Chinese Coast Guard ships, alarming the surrounding countries including the United States over China’s rapid military buildup.

The US Office of Naval Intelligence released a report in 2015, describing China’s massive expansion of naval power. The report said that China’s Coast Guard ships and law enforcement fleet outnumbered the combined naval fleet of Japan, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. -John Esconde