Evidence continues to mount that China is preparing for potential war with the United States.
New satellite images captured in the Taklamakan Desert in China's northwest suggest the Asian superpower has been wargaming with replica US Navy targets.
Surrounded by three mountain ranges to south, west and north, and the Gobi desert to the east, China is quietly building "a sophisticated weapons test range," says Maxar Technologies, a US satellite firm which captured the images.
The pictures indicate China is testing weapons or wargaming particular scenarios that "incorporate a number of simulated US Navy Carrier strike group vessels as targets," a spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.
One images shows a mock US Destroyer on rails to simulate the moving ship, while another reveals a target in the shape of a US aircraft carrier.
Defence analysts writing for the US Naval Institute said questions remain about the weapons being tested, but said the site was more sophisticated than previous Chinese sites of a similar nature.
"The PLA [People's Liberation Army] is continuing to invest in deterrents to limit the efficacy of US naval forces close to China," they wrote. "In particular targeting the US carrier fleet."
China has been beefing up its anti-ship ballistic missile programs in recent years. In its annual report on Chinese military activities released last week, the US pentagon warned that China's projected nuclear weapons arsenal was growing much quicker than previously thought.
Beijing could have 700 warheads by 2027 and possibly 1000 by 2030, the US said.
The report highlighted a recent test launch near contested islands in the South China Sea.
"In July 2019, the PLARF conducted its first-ever confirmed live-fire launch into the South China Sea, firing six DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles into the waters north of the Spratly Islands," it said.
The report also noted improved anti-ship weapons "capable of conducting precision land-attack and anti-ship strikes in the Western Pacific".
It comes amid growing concerns that conflict could break out between the two superpowers over China's stated desire to reclaim Taiwan by force in necessary.
Last week a top Taiwan security official told lawmakers China had internally debated whether to attack Taiwan's Pratas Islands but would not do so before 2024.
However National Security Bureau Director-General Chen Ming-tong did not say how he knew such a move had been debated or why it would not happen during the next few years.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.