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China's heavily-armed patrol ship spotted a few miles off Pag-asa.

One of China's most heavily-armed coast guard ship was seen near Sandy Cay in the West Philippine Sea, a part of the South China Sea claimed by the Philippines.

Ryan Martinson, assistant professor at China Maritime Studies Institute, said that Beijing's CCG 46301 appeared at the sandbar near Pag-asa Island on February 25.

On 25 February, China's most heavily-armed coast guard cutter (CCG 46301) appeared at Sandy Cay, just west of Pagasa Island. This ship is 4,000t and armed with a 76mm deck gun. (file photo) pic.twitter.com/GeET21POjh

- Ryan Martinson (@rdmartinson88) February 27, 2018

"This ship is 4,000 (tons) and armed with a 76mm deck gun," Martinson said.

In its August 2016 issue, Chinese naval magazine Naval and Merchant Ships described this type of vessels, a modified People's Liberation Army warship, as having the capability to be configured into a frigate.

China's CCG 46301 is armed with a 76mm main gun, two heavy 30mm machine guns, four high pressure water cannons and wields a Z-9 helicopter.

Large Chinese coast guard vessels would be strategic for patrol in the South China Sea, which is prone to "ramming contests," said Franz Stefan Gady, a conflict zone observer and senior editor at The Diplomat.

The size of CCG 46301 would be intimidating for smaller foreign vessels in disputed waters.

Continuous presence

Chinese fishing vessels, People's Liberation Army Navy frigates and Chinese Coast Guard vessels have maintained presence near Pag-asa Island for the past months.

Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, an opposition lawmaker, said the Chinese Coast Guard and PLA Navy vessels are regularly stationed near Sandy Cay as Subi or Zamora Reef is only 12 nautical miles away.

"Just last month during the rotation, they closed in to our Navy ship," Alejano said.

The lawmaker earlier received information that Chinese ships are taking aggressive actions against the Philippine Navy near Pag-asa Island, the largest feature in the Spratly Islands.

Chinese ships are believed to be stationed nearby, particularly Subi Reef which is being used as forward operating bases.

Subi Reef is one of China's "big three" artificial islands in the Spratlys which have been tranformed into air and naval bases.

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Publication:Philippines Star (Manila, Philippines)
Geographic Code:0PACI
Date:Feb 28, 2018
Words:439
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