China’s military has built targets that resemble U.S. Navy warships in the Taklamakan desert in the northwestern Xinjiang region, according to satellite images captured by Maxar.
Why it matters: The mock-ups of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier and destroyer reflect the Chinese government’s efforts to expand anti-carrier capabilities, “specifically against the U.S. Navy,” per Reuters.
- American officials and experts have raised alarm at reports of the Chinese government’s military expansion, its threat to Taiwan and territorial claims to the South China Sea, which are not recognized by the U.S.
Details: The images show a “full-scale outline of a U.S. carrier and at least two Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers” that have been built on what seems to be a new target range complex, Reuters notes.
- Experts said a six-meter-wide rail system featuring a ship-sized target on it could be used to “simulate a moving vessel,” Reuters reports.
Between the lines: The site has been used previously for ballistic missile testing, according to the independent U.S. Naval Institute, citing AllSource Analysis, which identified the site from Maxar’s imagery.
- “The mockups of several probable U.S. warships, along with other warships (mounted on rails and mobile), could simulate targets related to seeking/target acquisition testing,” AllSource Analysis said, per the U.S. Naval Institute.
- “This, and the extensive detail of the mockups, including the placement of multiple sensors on and around the vessel targets, it is probable that this area is intended for multiple uses over time,” the summary added.
What they’re saying: China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in response to a question on the satellite images during a briefing Monday, “I’m not aware of the situation you mentioned,” AP reports.
Of note: The development comes as the ruling Chinese Communist Party is expected to further consolidate the power of President Xi Jinping at a closed-door meeting that begins in Beijing Monday, Reuters notes.
- The Biden administration did not immediately respond to Axios’ request for comment.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.