China's First Aircraft Carrier Nearing Launch, Top Brass Confirm

      June 09, 2011 09:19

      China's top military brass acknowledged for the first time this week that Beijing has moved closer to launching its first aircraft carrier, the "Shi Lang." The vessel is being built from a defunct Soviet-era carrier formerly named the Varyag, which was purchased from the Ukraine in 1998.

      The 300-meter-long carrier "is being built, but has not been completed," said Chen Bingde, the chief of China's military general staff, according to The South China Morning Post, which cited the Hong Kong Commercial Daily as its source on Wednesday.

      Qi Jianguo, assistant to the chief of the People's Liberation Army's general staff, was also quoted as acknowledging the construction of the carrier.

      "All of the great nations in the world own aircraft carriers -- they are symbols of a great nation," Qi was quoted as saying. He said China needed its own aircraft carrier to bulk up its self-defense capability, adding that this was a routine measure adopted by modern naval powers.

      China has refused to officially acknowledge the construction of the aircraft carrier until now, electing instead to obscure the issue by referring to it as a "large vessel." However Qi was quick to point out that the country has no intention of using the carrier in an aggressive capacity.

      "Even if we possess an aircraft carrier, we will not enter the waters of other countries [as] certain nations do, and we are not able to do that," he said. "Since China possesses a complex maritime environment stretching from the South China Sea to the [West] Sea, we will use the aircraft carrier for defensive purposes."

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