China Builds Mock-Ups of U.S. Warships in Desert as Tensions Grow

China's military appears to have built mock-ups in the shape of U.S. warships and a U.S. Navy aircraft in a remote desert region previously used for missile target practice, according to satellite images released by Maxar Technologies on Sunday.

The images, from the Colorado-based satellite imagery company, show the objects at a weapons-testing facility in the remote Taklamakan desert in China's northwestern Xinjiang region.

They appear to depict two Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers and a carrier, according to the U.S. Naval Institute's news website.

Maxar Technologies said in a statement to Newsweek that the images "detail the construction of a sophisticated weapons test range" in the Taklamakan Desert that "incorporates a number of simulated U.S. Navy Carrier strike group vessels as targets."

The photographs also depict a ship-sized target placed on a rail system.

According to Bloomberg, both types of vessels that appear to have been recreated as mock-ups by the Chinese military are deployed by the U.S. Seventh Fleet, which patrols the Western Pacific including around the self-ruled island of Taiwan.

The independent U.S. Naval Institute added that the mock-ups were part of a new target range developed by the People's Liberation Army. Citing geospatial intelligence company AllSource Analysis, it said that the region has previously been used for ballistic missile testing.

"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," the U.S. Naval Institute said.

"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," it added.

Responding to the matter during a press conference on Monday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that he is "not aware of the situation," The Associated Press reported.

It comes amid growing tensions between Washington and Beijing, particularly as President Joe Biden makes the Indo-Pacific a focus of his administration. In July, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned China against engaging in "provocative behaviour" in the South China Sea.

The status of Taiwan has also been a major point of growing contention between the two nations. The Chinese communist regime claims Taiwan as a province of China, although the self-ruled island has its own constitution, democratically-elected government and military.

In recent weeks, Beijing has ramped up military harassment against Taiwan, including flying its military over the island's air defense zone. The United States, under the Taiwan Relations Act, provides Taiwan with military equipment for self-defense purposes.

Newsweek has contacted the Biden administration for comment.

Satellite imagery provided by Maxar Technologies
This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies and dated November 7, 2021, shows a ship-sized target placed on a rail system in the remote Taklamakan desert, located in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies