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July 22, 2017

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China's new missile vessel ready for debut: report

TAIPEI -- The appearance of a picture of China's second 052D guided missile destroyer on the Internet recently has aroused speculation in China that the country's most advanced version of the warship is ready for the sea.

Television station HBTV in Hubei province, central China reported that the vessel in the picture was decorated with Chinese flags and other features which suggested that it was ready for launch.

It is not unusual for China to release pictures of its new state-developed military weaponry to Internet users before confirming their existence, said HBTV.

A political commentator Zhang Bin told HBTV that the launch of the destroyer would be a milestone in China's naval buildup, as it will send a veiled warning to other countries, especially Japan, which is embroiled in a territory dispute with China over the Diaoyutai Islands, an archipelago in the East China Sea.

Noting that following his party's victory in Japan's Dec. 16 parliamentary election, Shinzo Abe, president of the Liberal Democratic Party, said the country's sovereignty over the Diaoyutais is beyond dispute, Zhang said the launch of China's second 052D destroyer will force Abe to lower his voice when making similar claims in the future.

The discovery of the image on the Internet after Abe's remarks could not be a coincidence, said Zhang.

He recalled that a picture of China's first aircraft carrier Liaoning appeared on the Internet on Sept. 25, shortly after U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited Beijing.

A picture of China's stealth fighter jet J-31 was posted on the Internet on Nov. 5 during the height of the Sino-Japanese dispute over the Diaoyutais.

And a picture showing the successful test flight of China's J-15 fighter jets on its aircraft carrier appeared on Nov. 25, shortly after U.S. President Barrack Obama visited three Southeast Asian countries, including China's close allies Myanmar and Cambodia.

As a successor of the 052C, the 052D destroyer was billed as China's version of the Aegis, the U.S. state-of-the-art warship. It is equipped with 64 vertical missile launch cells, allowing for the quick firing of anti-air, anti-ship and ground-attack missiles.

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