Satellite images dated Sunday show that China has built mock-ups of a US Navy aircraft carrier and destroyer in its northwestern desert.
The images captured by Colorado-based satellite imagery company Maxar Technologies illustrate the outlines of a US aircraft carrier and at least one destroyer sitting on a railway track, ABC News reported. Maxar identified the location as Ruoqiang, a Taklamakan Desert county in the Xinjiang region.
The independent US Naval Institute said on its website that the mock-ups were part of a new target range developed by the People's Liberation Army. USNI said it had discovered features on the destroyer including funnels and weapons systems.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a press briefing on Monday that he had no information about the satellite images, maintaining to the media: "I'm not aware of the situation you mentioned."
The revelation might be depicting possible practice for a future naval clash between the two global powers amid growing military tensions over the South China Sea, Taiwan's independence, and the Indo-Pacific region.
China sent a record number of aircraft into the self-governing island's air defense identification zone in early October. The consecutive incursions coincided with a weeklong holiday in China that began with National Day on Oct. 1.
Beijing has demanded that the US cut off military ties with Taiwan following reports that Marines have been helping the island strengthen its defenses against a potential Chinese invasion. A Special Operations unit and a contingent of Marines have been stationed in Taiwan for over a year to train the island's military forces.
Mainland officials have threatened to take control of the self-ruled island by force if Taiwan's government declares official independence.
"China will take all necessary measures to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian warned.
Beijing could be capable of mounting a "full-scale" invasion of Taiwan by 2025, the island's defense minister said days after the deployment of Chinese warplanes.
China has the weight of numbers on its side as the world's largest military by active personnel, but America has various technological and financial advantages.
US Defense Department issued a report determining that China is expanding its nuclear force much faster than US officials predicted just a year ago.
"The PLA's evolving capabilities and concepts continue to strengthen (China’s) ability to 'fight and win wars' against a 'strong enemy' [...] a likely euphemism for the United States," the Pentagon report issued Nov. 3 reads.
China may have also established a nuclear triad, which includes the ability to launch such missiles from the air, ground, and sea, according to the Defense Department in its annual report on military and security developments involving China, referred to as the China Military Power Report.
There's an ongoing effort to achieve "mechanization" within China's military forces, which the report describes as the Chinese army's efforts to modernize its weapons and equipment to be networked with reform efforts.