“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.”
“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 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.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
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.
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