China testing new fleet of warships amid ongoing, rising tensions in disputed South China Sea

The new ship was spotted this week after China said it expelled U.S. destroyer USS John S. McCain off disputed Spratly Island waters.

Updated: December 24, 2020 - 9:11pm

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China is bolstering its navy fleet amid ever increasing tension between the Communist-run country and the U.S. in the disputed and strategic South China Sea. 

The People’s Liberation Army has ordered eight Type 075 assault ships, capable of carrying 30 attack helicopters and 900 troops, according to Newsweek.

One was seen this week leaving the Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai, days after China claimed to have expelled the U.S. destroyer USS John S. McCain from waters off the disputed Spratly Island. The first was spotted four months ago on a maiden voyage.

The Pentagon has denied the claim that the U.S. destroyer was being forced to leave earlier this week.

"The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as USS John S McCain did here," 7th Fleet spokesman Lt. Joe Keiley said Tuesday.

The United States says China’s claims on the sea are "unlawful," and it has condemned the country’s large military presence.

Roughly one-third of the world's maritime shipping passes through the sea, representing about $3 trillion in annual trade. 

The sea, part of the Western Pacific Ocean, also has vast oil and natural gas reserves and fisheries.   

Earlier this year, the Commerce Department blacklisted two dozen Chinese companies for assisting the Chinese Communist Party in building artificial islands in the sea, a move the U.S. considers a military provocation, according to the New York Post.