China on the verge of sea trials of its first carrier

A top Chinese General has confirmed that Beijing is building an aircraft carrier which could be ready for sea trials later this year.

Updated: Jun 08, 2011, 16:44 PM IST

London: A top Chinese General has confirmed
that Beijing is building an aircraft carrier which could be
ready for sea trials later this year.

General Chen Bingde, Chief of the General Staff of the
People`s Liberation Army said that a Soviet carrier is being
refurbished, marking the first acknowledgement of the
warship`s existence from China`s secretive military.

"It is being built, but it has not yet been completed",
BBC reported quoting the Chinese General as saying in an
interview to the Hong Kong`s `Commercial Daily`.

The General refused to elaborate, but the Hong Kong daily
reported that the warship, presently being built in the
northeastern port city of Dalian was nearly finished and could
be launched by June end.

BBC said the Chinese were working to refurbish a Ukraine
built carrier called `Varyag` reportedly purchased as scrap in
1988.

But the BBC reported from Beijing that it does not imply
that the carrier will be ready to undertake operational
duties. "Chinese military would have to build carrier based
fighters and learn how to fly planes off it".

Another top PLA General Qi Jianguo, assistant chief of
the general staff, told the Hong Kong paper that even after
the carrier was deployed, it would "definitely not sail to
other country`s territorial waters" in accordance with
Beijing`s defensive military strategy.

"All of the great nations in the world own aircraft
carriers-- they are symbols of a great nation", the General
was quoted as saying. China is engaged in a protracted maritime border dispute
with neighbouring nations, but Qi said Beijing had always
followed a defensive principle for its military strategy.

In an apparent reference to brewing dispute in the South
China sea, the General said, "It would have been better for us
if we acted sooner in understanding the oceans and mapping out
our blue-water capabilities earlier".

"We are now facing heavy pressure in the oceans whether in
the South China Sea, East China Sea, Yellow Sea or the Taiwan
Straits", he said.

In another first, General Chen said that citizens of Hong
Kong, the former British colony, could join the PLA.

PTI