China begins to build its own aircraft carrier

Pentagon sees Beijing flexing muscle for world

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“The warship is still seaworthy, as it has been docked at sea for some time,” he said, noting that “training for aircraft pilots also in progress.”

Mr. Geng said aircraft carriers are being developed because of China’s long coastlines and large territorial waters.

Regarding future indigenous carriers, Mr. Geng said: “Both overestimation and underestimation of China’s future aircraft carrier have been wrong.”

Building and operating aircraft carriers is a “sacred responsibility of China’s armed forces,” Mr. Geng said, noting the complexity of operating large ships that launch and recover aircraft.

“An aircraft carrier is a weapons platform; it can be used for offensive or defensive purposes. It can also be used to maintain global peace and for rescue and relief work,” he said.

Reports from China said the carrier is expected to begin conducting sea trials this month.

The ship likely will be deployed to the South China Sea island of Hainan, where China also plans to deploy its new nuclear-powered submarines.

China is building attack and ballistic missile submarines, and satellite photos have shown an opening to an underwater submarine base on Hainan.

Tensions remain high in the South China Sea as Chinese ships have moved to assert control over large areas of disputed waters in the sea, which is also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

Among those in the region concerned about China’s military buildup is Japan. A government defense report published in December said China’s growing missile and naval forces, and the secrecy surrounding the development, “are of concern for the regional and global community.”

China’s next moves have to be watched carefully, or there eventually could be a negative impact on maritime safety in Asia,” Yoshihiko Yamada, a professor at Japan’s Tokai University, told Reuters.

China’s interest in developing aircraft carriers increased as a result of the 1996 crisis over Taiwan. At that time, China fired short-range missiles at Taiwan, and the Pentagon responded by sending two aircraft carrier strike groups to waters near the island.

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. ...

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