The Chinese military has reportedly strengthened its coastal forces as it prepares for a possible invasion of Taiwan.
Military observers claim Beijing is stepping up the militarisation of is southeast coast, upgrading its missile bases and deploying its most advanced hypersonic missiles to the area.
A source told the South China Morning Post : “The DF-17 hypersonic missile will gradually replace the old DF-11s and DF-15s that were deployed in the southeast region for decades.
“The new missile has a longer range and is able to hit targets more accurately.”
The DF-17 missile, which has a maximum range of 2,500km (1,550 miles), made its first public appearance on last year’s October 1 National Day to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province which it has vowed to take back, and has pledged to do it by force if necessary.
Relations between Beijing and the Taiwanese capital Taipei have deteriorated since Tsai Ing-wen, from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was elected as President in 2016 and refused to accept the one-China principle.
The policy asserts that there is only one sovereign state under the name China.
Satellite images show that both the Marine Corps and Rocket Force bases in Fujian and Guangdong provinces have expanded in recent years, according to Andrei Chang, editor-in-chief of the Canada-based Kanwa Defence Review.
He said: “Every rocket force brigade in Fujian and Guangdong is now fully equipped.
“The size of some of the missile bases in the eastern and southern theatre commands have even doubled in recent years, showing they are stepping up preparations for a war targeting Taiwan.”
One base in Puning, a city in Guangdong province, had been upgraded and now housed a new type of ballistic missile.
The deployment of missiles on the coasts of Fujian and Zhejiang provinces previously peaked during the presidency of Tsai’s DPP predecessor Chen Shui-ban.
The US has warned Taiwan to prepare itself against a possible Chinese invasion.