Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Thailand agreed to purchase an made amphibious transport dock ship from a Chinese shipbuilder.
A purchase price of about $200 million was announced this week, and Adm. Leuchai Ruddit, commander of the Thai navy, made clear on Thursday that the deal is a purchase and not a gift from China.
It is the first time the state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation arranged for construction of a Type 071E vessel for export purposes.
Although Thailand is aligned with the United States, and was designated a non-NATO ally in 2003, it also conducts military exercises with China's air force and navy. The Thai military operates Chinese-made tanks and armored personnel carriers and intends to acquire Chinese-made submarines.
A signing ceremony to purchase the ship took place this week in Beijing.
The Type 071E ship, nearly 700 feet long, can carry up to 800 personnel and features a vehicle deck, well-deck, landing deck and hangar. It can carry a combination of marines, vehicles, landing craft and helicopters. It is armed with a 76 mm gun and four 30 mm weapons systems, and has been in service with China's military since 2007.
The ship destined for Thailand could take three years to build.
Thailand has four decommissioned ships in the category and has one aircraft carrier. Thai Navy vessels are largely used in humanitarian and disaster relief missions.
Ruddit said that the purchase price is reasonable, given the ship's size and specifications.