China is leveraging civilian assets in the South China Sea for national security interests. Specifically, the communist country is upgrading two of its civilian supply ships with state-of-the-art surveillance hardware, which will enable China to track vessels from the United States, Vietnam and other nations.
Radio Free Asia reports that new Chinese government procurement documents show that China is using civilian vessels for military purposes, which has become part of China’s so-called “military-civil fusion” strategy.
The publication reports that China awarded a contract to Zhejiang Dali Science and Technology Co., Ltd. by Sansha City, which is responsible for China’s maritime and territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Dali Science is set to outfit the city’s two main supply ships with a pair of “DLS-16T Long-Distance Optoelectronic Monitoring Systems.”
While both ships, the Sansha 1 and the Sansha 2, are tasked with supplying China’s largest base in the Paracel Islands, the ships have both ventured further south to the Spratly Islands, where China is engaged in maritime disputes with Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.
With new surveillance equipment, China will be able to assert its dominance in the region by providing the ships with the capability to “carry out omnidirectional search, observation, surveillance, and video evidence collection against maritime and aerial targets.” The ships are capable of detecting so-called “sensitive ships,” and record and display information in real time.
In other words, should China butt heads with the United States or other forces, these surveillance ships would provide it with a significant tactical advantage in the region.