CHINA/FILE: Beijing says it is refitting an old aircraft carrier bought from Ukraine, and will use it for...
- Title: CHINA/FILE: Beijing says it is refitting an old aircraft carrier bought from Ukraine, and will use it for training and research purposes
- Date: 28th July 2011
- Summary: BOSPHORUS, TURKEY (ORIGINALLY 4:3) (NOVEMBER 1, 2001) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF VARYAG, THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER APPROACHING THE BOSPHORUS ENTRANCE TUG BOATS SURROUNDING VARYAG BOSPHORUS/TUG BOATS SLOWLY PULLING THE VARYAG VARYAG CROSSING BOSPHORUS PEOPLE WATCHING VARYAG VARIOUS OF VARYAG
- Reuters ID: LVAE7SBTBN4SI1RL3890C9TQA7O2
- Location: Turkey, Taiwan, Province of China, China
- Country: Taiwan
- Duration: 00:00:54
- Aspect Ratio:
- Topics: Conflict,International Relations,Politics
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None
- Story Text: China confirmed on Wednesday (July 27) that it was refitting an old aircraft carrier bought from Ukraine to use for training and research as part of a broad modernisation programme that has rattled nerves regionally.
Defence ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng, announced the news, without giving a timetable for when it might be launched or start sea trials.
"Building a carrier is extremely complex. We are currently refitting an old aircraft carrier, to be used for research and training," Geng said.
The announcement comes as China has been flexing its muscles more aggressively in the South China Sea, where a territorial dispute with Taiwan and several Southeast Asian nations, including Vietnam and the Philippines, has festered for years.
But Geng said the timing has nothing to do with the South China Sea disputes.
"The timing to make public the aircraft carrier has nothing to do with the situation in the South China Sea," he said.
China is ramping up military spending as the United States discusses cutting its defence budget, though the U.S. still far outspends China on security.
"This is the sacred responsibility of China's armed forces," Geng said, in a statement carrierd on the ministry's website (www.mod.gov.cn).
Experts say the carrier will add to regional concerns about China's military modernisation and arms build-up. Defence spending is rising fast, and Beijing continues to test new high-tech equipment, including a stealth fighter.
"It's not only to Taiwan but to the regional security, because China now can project its air power with moving assets, which means carrier, to even further away from its coastline, that will have significant security implications to the forces operating in the Western Pacific, including United States forces, Japan and Australian and many other states. So this is a watershed development," said Dr. Alexander Chieh-Cheng Huang, professor of strategy and war gaming at the graduate institute of international affairs and strategic studies of Tamkang University in Taiwan.
Official Xinhua news agency said it was the first time the government had confirmed it was pursuing a carrier programme, though senior defence officials have talked about its existence in recent weeks without giving details.
The former Soviet carrier Varyag, bought from Ukraine in 1998 and once destined to become a floating casino, is part of President Hu Jintao's grand scheme to modernise the navy.
The announcement comes as China celebrates 90 years since the founding of the ruling Communist Party, and just ahead of Army Day on Aug. 1.
China will likely acquire at least two more carriers, sources have told Reuters.
The aircraft carrier has been one of China's worst-kept military secrets. Pictures of it undergoing a refit in Dalian harbour have circulated on Chinese websites for months, and it has been widely discussed in state media.
China would be the third Asian country to have a carrier after India and Thailand, but it will take time before it can go to sea in Asian waters that have largely been the domain of the U.S. navy since World War Two.
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- Embargoed:12th August 2011 13:00