Chinese navy takes first aircraft carrier
BEIJING - Agence France-Presse
Varyag escorted by a flotilla through the Bosphorus in Istanbul in this 2001 photo. REUTERS PhotoChina’s first aircraft carrier was handed over yesterday to the navy of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), state press said, amid rising tensions over disputed waters in the East and South China Seas.
The handover ceremony of the 300-meter ship, a former Soviet carrier called the Varyag, took place in northeast China’s port of Dalian after a lengthy refitting by a Chinese shipbuilder. During the ceremony the aircraft carrier raised the Chinese national flag on its mast, the PLA flag on its bow and the navy’s colors on its stern, the short online report said. A ceremony to place the ship into active service would be held sometime in the future, the paper said without elaboration.
Beijing has insisted the carrier poses no threat to its neighbors and will be used mainly for training and research purposes. But numerous sea trials of the aircraft carrier, currently only known as “Number 16,” since August 2011 were met with concern from Japan and the U.S., which called on Beijing to explain why it needed an aircraft carrier. The announcement comes at a time of heightened tensions over maritime disputes in the Asia-Pacific region.