Satellite images show China has built models of a US Navy aircraft carrier and destroyer in the northwestern desert, possibly for training for a future battle.
China has greatly upgraded its military in recent years, and its capabilities and intentions are of growing concern to the US as tensions mount over the South China Sea, Taiwan and military supremacy in the Indo-Pacific.
The images taken by Colorado-based Maxar Technologies, dated Sunday, show the outline of a US aircraft carrier and at least one destroyer on a railroad track.
Maxar identified the location as Ruoqiang, a Taklamakan desert province in northwestern Xinjiang region.
The independent US Naval Institute (USNI) said the mock-ups of US ships were part of a new target developed by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
It was not clear from the images how much detail had been incorporated into the apparent targets, although the USNI identified features on the destroyer, including the funnels and weapon systems.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said during a daily briefing on Monday that he had no information about the images. “I’m not aware of the situation you mentioned,” he added.
China’s military upgrade has placed emphasis on countering the US and other naval forces. That includes the development of land-, sea- and air-launched missiles to repel and possibly sink enemy ships, most emphatically expressed by the land-based DF-21D ballistic missile known as the carrier. killer.
There has been a significant increase in Chinese military flights southwest of Taiwan, the self-governing island republic claimed by Beijing and threatening to annex it by force.
Washington supplies Taiwan with many of its weapons, and US law requires it to ensure that the island can defend itself and treat threats as matters of “serious concern.”
The images released by Maxar come amid growing concerns over the possibility of a military conflict between the world’s two largest economies, which are at odds over a litany of political and economic issues.
The Pentagon released a report this month saying that China is expanding its nuclear power much faster than US officials predicted a year ago. That appears to be intended to allow Beijing to match or surpass US global power by mid-century, the report said.
US defense officials are increasingly wary of China’s intentions, especially regarding Taiwan’s status.
“The PLA’s evolving capabilities and concepts continue to bolster China’s ability to ‘wage and win wars’ against a ‘strong enemy’ — a likely euphemism for the United States,” the report said.
The Chinese Navy and Coast Guard are also adding ships at a record pace and concentrating them in the South China Sea, the strategic waterway that China claims almost entirely.
Although the US Navy is predominant, its resources are distributed across the Indo-Pacific, the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean and other regions where US interests lie.
China’s test of a hypersonic weapon that can partially orbit the Earth before reentering the atmosphere and sliding toward its target on an agile path also surprised US military leaders.
Beijing said it was testing a reusable space vehicle, not a missile, but the weapons system’s design was intended to evade US missile defenses.
Gen Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the test was almost a “Sputnik moment,” akin to the Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of the world’s first space satellite, fueling fears that the US was cases technologically behind.