Taiwan has commissioned the first of a fleet of coastguard ships that can be converted into warships to bolster defence of Taipei-controlled islands in the South China Sea , amid growing threats from mainland China. Delivery of the new 5,000-tonne patrol vessel Chiayi – Taiwan’s largest – to the island’s coastguard, along with the launch of another similar frigate on Thursday, came two weeks after the Taiwanese navy launched its first modern amphibious assault and transport vessel , Yushan, to meet its needs in the disputed waters. According to navy officials, commissioning the frigate would boost the coastguard’s defence capability, reinforcing defence of the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands – or Dongsha in Chinese – and Taiping Island in the South China Sea, where Beijing has expanded its military presence. At a commissioning ceremony in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen said delivery of the coastguard ship and the launch of the amphibious vessel showed the Taiwanese government’s commitment to domestic shipbuilding and military modernisation. “I believe, after the delivery, training and commissioning of Chiayi as well as the completion of other relevant shipbuilding projects, the coastguard will be able to bolster its patrol capacity while ensuring the safety of law enforcement officials,” she said. Construction of Chiayi falls under a NT$10.4 billion (US$370 million) contract awarded to Taiwan’s CSBC Corporation in 2018 to build four patrol ships for the island’s coastguard. Chiayi has undergone testing and sea trials since its launch last June. On Thursday, CSBC also launched another coastguard frigate, which was named Hsinchu by Tsai. Chiayi and Hsinchu are names of cities in Taiwan. “This type of frigate has a displacement of up to 5,055 tonnes and a cruising endurance of up to 10,000 nautical miles,” Cheng Wen-lon, head of the CSBC, said during the ceremony. “It is fitted with 20mm [0.8-inch] cannons and remote-control turrets, two .50 machine guns and a 2.75-inch rocket.” He said the ship was capable of landing the navy’s anti-submarine helicopters and could be converted to a military vessel, or a medical ship because it was equipped with advanced medical facilities. Two weeks ago, the Taiwanese navy launched Yushan, its first 10,000-tonne landing platform dock, which was to be fitted with two anti-aircraft missiles and other weapons for missions including at South China Sea islands. South China Sea: the dispute that could start a military conflict The launches came after mainland China’s People’s Liberation Army last week took delivery of three new vessels – a Type 075 landing helicopter dock, Type 055 Destroyer and Type 094 submarine – at its naval port on the southern island of Hainan. That prompted Chen Ming-tong, director of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau, to warn of an escalated threat to Taiwan and the region. Beijing has reportedly staged drills simulating a takeover of the Pratas Islands and Taiping. It considers Taiwan part of its territory, to be reunited with mainland China by force if necessary. Taiwan’s defence ministry and Coast Guard Administration said they were strengthening training of personnel on the islands and expanding infrastructure there to accommodate bigger planes and vessels for practical and defence needs.