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According to reports, the new prototype of the KJ-600 carrier-based Airborne Early Warning (AEW) platform has been spotted at Xian-Yanliang. It is believed the new aircraft is set to take its first flight imminently.
The KJ-600 is a twin, high-wing cargo aircraft and can reportedly reach speeds of up to 431mph.
Early artist impressions of the aircraft revealed it resembled the Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye which is in service aboard US and French carriers.
The satellite image comes as tensions between Washington and Beijing hit new heights this week.
In a terrifying warning towards the US, Beijing launched two medium-range missiles into the South China Sea.
The move came after China said a US U-2 spy plane entered a no-fly zone without permission.
A source close to the Chinese military is understood to have told local media the missile launch was intended to send a warning to Washington.
The missiles were launched towards the Paracel Islands and the south-east of the Hainan province to the south of the Chinese mainland.
A source told the South China Morning Post: “This is China’s response to the potential risks brought by the increasingly frequent incoming US warplanes and military vessels in the South China Sea.
“China doesn’t want the neighbouring countries to misunderstand Beijing’s goals.”
It is also understood the missiles were aimed at showcasing China’s ability to deny any force entering the South China Sea.
According to reports, a DF-26 missile is used for nuclear or conventional strikes against naval or ground targets.
Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military commentator said: “The US continues to test China’s bottom line in Taiwan and South China Sea issues, and this pushed China to showcase its military strength to let Washington know that even US aircraft carriers cannot flex their full muscle near China’s coast.”
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Following the launch of the missiles, Washington has announced a series of sanctions on Chinese entities, including the state-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCCC).
Visa restrictions will now apply to individuals and businesses “responsible for, or complicity in, either the large-scale reclamation, construction, or militarisation of disputed outposts in the South China Sea, or [the People’s Republic of China’s] use of coercion against Southeast Asian claimants to inhibit their access to offshore resources”.
Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said: “This is the first time the US has levied any type of economic sanction against Chinese entities for behaviour in the South China Sea.
“It probably doesn’t make much impact on those entities directly – I doubt that there is much CCCC needs to buy from the US that it can’t get from other suppliers.
“And these certainly aren’t the financial sanctions that some might have expected.
“But it could be a start at trying to convince Southeast Asian partners the new policy is more than just rhetoric.”
Relations between the two nations have grown increasingly strained over recent months over COVID-19, trade, Hong Kong and China’s treatment of the Uyghur community.
US President Donald Trump has continually blamed China for deliberately starting and spreading the deadly coronavirus pandemic around the world, which Beijing has repeatedly denied.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also attacked the Communist nation on a number of issues.
He recently called for other nations in the South China Sea region to counter against China’s dominance in the contested region.
Mr Pompeo tweeted: “The United States’ policy is crystal clear: the South China Sea is not China’s maritime empire.
“If Beijing violates International law and free nations do nothing, history shows the CCP (Communist Party of China) will simply take more territory.
“China Sea disputes must be resolved through International law.”
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