China’s first aircraft carrier ‘starts sea trial’

The Chinese navy’s first aircraft carrier has begun its sea trials, the state-run Xinhua news agency has said.It quoted military sources as saying that the refitted former Soviet warship left its shipyard in the north-east and the trial “would not take a long time”.The move is likely to raise fresh concerns over China’s rapid military build-up.Beijing is currently involved in several maritime territorial disputes, particularly in the South China Sea.The aircraft carrier left its shipyard at Dalian Port in northeast Liaoning Province on Wednesday morning, Xinhua reported.

“Military sources said that the first sea trial was in line with the schedule of the carrier refitting project,” it said.”After returning from the sea trial, the aircraft carrier will continue refit and test work.”Xinhua did not provide any further details.The carrier is question is a former Soviet warship, which was formerly called the Varyag.It is a relatively old design and it was not built by China. It was constructed in the 1980s for the navy of the USSR, but was never completed. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the rusting hull of the Varyag sat in dockyards in Ukraine.

As other Soviet warships were cut up for scrap a Chinese company with links to China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) bought the Varyag claiming it wanted to turn it into a floating casino in Macau. It took several years to finally tow it all the way round the world to China, where it was then taken to Dalian.In June, the PLA confirmed that China’s first aircraft carrier was under construction.

However, Beijing has recently sought to downplay the capabilities of the carrier, saying it would be used for training and research.But a Japanese defence study last week expressed concern about what it called China’s failure to explain its military ambitions.In the past year, China had maritime run-ins with Japan, Vietnam and also the Philippines over disputed territories in the area. – BBC