China launches its second aircraft carrier - NEWS SENTRY

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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

China launches its second aircraft carrier

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BEIJING: China has launched its second aircraft carrier bringing its navy to the same level as that of India, which has two aircraft carriers. The new carrier, which was set afloat at the northwestern port of Dalian amid a champhane popping ceremony on Wednesday, will eventually be sent out to the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, state media said.

The Chinese government claimed that the new carrier was entirely home built although there were reports that it may be based on the design of the first one, which was bought from Russia. The second carrier, which has still not been named, is larger than Liaoning, the first one, and hence capable of carrying more fuel and last longer in the waters.

"With its aircraft carriers and their vessel formations, China's navy can patrol the Pacific and Indian oceans to
safeguard its national economic as well as scientific and technological interests," Wang Xiaoxuan, an expert on military issues wrote in the State-run People's Daily Online.

India is wary about China's increasing activities in the Indian Ocean. China is also entangled in maritime disputes with several countries including Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia. Australia is responding to China's naval buildup by enhancing its capabilities. The new carrier launch in China may result in a competition to acquire greater military capabilities in the region.

The 1,033-foot long carrier is expected to be formally commissioned before 2020, after sea trials and the arrival of its full air complement. This is China's first Type 001A class carrier with a displacement of 50,000 metric tones which will serve as a base fighter jets, helicopters and a range of sea monitoring devices.

In a bulletin, the People's Liberation Army said that the launch "signified a major stage of progress of our country's indigenous design and construction of aircraft carriers".

China's neighbors including India and Japan would be watching the evolving situation very carefully, experts said. "[The new carrier] is likely to be seen as further evidence of China's desire to become the most powerful and influential country in the region," The Guardian quoted Michael Chase, an expert on the Chinese military at US thinktank the Rand Corporation, as saying. That would be especially worrying to Indian security analysts who were already concerned about Beijing's ambitions in the Indian Ocean, he said.

There are signs China hurried through the launch ceremony which is due to be fully operational in 2020 although it is far from ready. The idea may be to send out a signal to the United States, which is sending a naval ship towards North Korea, and establishing the THAAD missile system in South Korea, sources said. Though the US says the system is meant to counter aggression from North Korea, Beijing sees it as a major security risk to itself. China has also repeatedly cautioned the U.S. about taking provocative actions against North Korea instead of having faith in negotiations.

Experts saw the new carrier as a signal from Beijing that it was ahead of naval capabilities among all Asian countries. "With each new aircraft carrier, China is sending a signal that it has no peer among its neighbors," the New York Times quoted Patrick M. Cronin, the senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, as saying.

Chinese government experts have said that a third carrier will be built soon, and it would probably be nuclear armed. China's goal is to build a carrier that is close in size and capability to US navy's nuclear-powered 100,000-ton Nimitz-class ships, with flat flight decks and catapults to allow planes to launch with more bombs and fuel aboard.

"The third one, however, will benefit from major breakthroughs,and may even be nuclear-powered," Chinese military expert Xu Guangyu said in a recent interview with media.

China's first aircraft carrier, which was launched in 2011, was built around a rusting Soviet-era hull from Ukraine in 1998.

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