The Chinese Navy launched a new destroyer on Wednesday at Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai. The People’s Liberation Army Navy claimed that the 10,000-tonne domestically designed and produced vessel is the first of the Asian giant’s new generation of destroyers.

In a statement, the Navy said that the deadly vessel, equipped with new air defence, anti-missile, anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons, would certainly improve its armament system that is necessary to build a strong and modern Navy. Li Jie, a researcher with the PLA Naval Military Academic Research Institute, explained that the newly launched vessel, dubbed the ‘Type 055’ class, would weigh 13,000 tonnes when fully fitted out with its weapon systems. “Type 055 guided-missile destroyer carries medium-long-range and medium-short range air-defence missiles, which can significantly improve its overall air defence capability. It also has a strong anti-submarine capability. So, it is much more able to protect aircraft carrier battle group than the Type-052D destroyer currently in service,” he said. According to Li, Asia’s largest surface warship have more than 100 vertical launch tubes for missiles with the ability to strike targets 1,000-2,000km away. Now, the Navy will carry out some tests, including equipment operation, berthing and sailing, on the vessel.

After attending the ceremony at Jiangnan Shipyard, Head of the Equipment Development Department of the Central Military Commission Zhang Youxia said that launching of the ship was a huge step for China (as far as its military modernisation is concerned). The Chinese Navy backed Zhang’s view, saying in a statement: “It is the symbol of the Navy to achieve strategic transformation development.”

Meanwhile, the American, Japanese and Indian defence analysts have expressed serious concern over the development, saying that the South China Sea conflict took a new turn with this development. According to analysts, China, by flexing military muscles, has made clear that it is ready to challenge the US, Japan, South Korea and India in order to stamp its authority in Asia.

Notably, China launched the vessel 72 hours after India and the US issued a joint statement in Washington. In the statement, the two countries said that they would work together with other countries to resolve the South China Sea dispute. As a result, the Indian media reports have raised alarms over the launch, pointing out that the latest Chinese destroyer is superior to any ship yet commissioned by the Indian Navy.

Recently, India, the US, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia have joined the fray in protesting against China on the South China Sea issue. New Delhi, which is worried about the increased activity of the Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean, has strongly criticised Beijing for creating a fresh set of tensions in Asia by showing its naval strength.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]