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PLA’s new assault ships pose a threat to Taiwan

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The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has had a busy April with circumnavigation missions of Taiwan. The PLA’s jets have breached the island’s airspace and its ships the territorial waters, despite the ongoing pandemic.

Taiwan’s military, meanwhile, has been on guard, responding with interception flybys to warn off intruders from the mainland. The increasing arms build-up on both sides of the Taiwan Strait has swung further in the PLA’s favor, with its navy on a construction spree, launching larger and more formidable vessels.

The PLA last week launched another 40,000-ton amphibious assault ship last at a shipyard in Shanghai, the second vessel of its Type 075 class to be put to sea, with a commission into service expected in 2022.

The pair of colossal troop carriers that sport the design of an aircraft carrier dwarf any assets the Taiwanese Navy has in water displacement. A few kilometers away at the same shipyard operated by the China State Shipbuilding Co, Ltd, along an estuary of the Yangtze River, the PLA’s third and likely fourth aircraft carriers with a new flattop design are also rumored to be taking shape.

The two Type 075 amphibious assault ships docked at a military port in Shanghai, with the stern gate of the one on the right clearly visible in the picture. Photo: Handout
The Type 075 landing ship is dubbed a ‘mini-aircraft carrier’ due to its sheer size. Photo: Xinhua

The Taiwanese military has long been outgunned in the arms race as Beijing ratchets up its drive to modernize its military. But the two new giants that are arguably the largest landing and assault ships of any Asian navies have authorities the island worried.

In terms of size and tonnage, the Type 075 class is estimated to be larger than the Australian Canberra class and second only to the US Navy’s Wasp class and America class, according to Forbes and the National Interest Magazine.

Observers say the two ships will likely enter service with the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command to act as a spearhead if hostilities break out between the two feuding governments on both sides of the strait.

The new ships will join the East Sea Fleet, whose headquarters are in Ningbo, 500 kilometers northwest of Taipei, a force that will figure prominently in any blockade or even invasion of the island.

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