May 23 (UPI) -- China is building its fourth aircraft carrier and is expected to deploy the vessel in six years.
The latest development may be a sign the world's second-largest economy seeks to expand its navy while militarizing disputed islands in the South China Sea.
Taiwanese newspaper China Times reported Tuesday construction of a fourth aircraft carrier, also China's third homemade carrier, is underway and could be ready for deployment by 2023.
Quoting Chinese military sources, the report stated a new "block" had emerged at Dalian Shipyard, the same location where the Type 001A carrier, China's first self-built aircraft carrier, was assembled and deployed.
Block construction entails the assembly of prefabricated sections – including parts of the hull that are built elsewhere – then lifted into place at a single location.
The fourth vessel is being referred to as the Type 002.
China's third aircraft carrier, the Type 002A, is under construction at Jiangnan Changxingdao shipyard in Shanghai, according to the report.
Construction on the 002A began in March 2015, and the carrier is likely to be commissioned in 2021.
Meanwhile the 001A, launched in April, is expected to undergo sea trial in 18 months.
The deployment of China's first self-built carrier was met with praise from patriotic Chinese, who described the carrier as a "symbol of China's technological power, industrial capability and overall strength."
China Times' source said the Type 002 is to be equipped with four 200,000hp steam turbines and has a displacement of 85,000 tons.