Beijing: China regards its first aircraft
carrier as a "strategic" asset and plans to deploy it in the
resource-rich South China Sea, where it is involved in
maritime disputes with several countries.
The aircraft carrier, which has just completed trial
runs, will be deployed in the South China Sea by the next Army
Day, state-run People`s Daily reported today.
Tensions brewed in the South China Sea in recent months
between China and several ASEAN countries including Vietnam
and The Philippines over a number of islands stated to be rich
with mineral and oil resources.
The vessel will operate under direct command of the
country`s Central Military Commission, headed by President Hu
Jintao, the report said.
According to reports, the carrier refitted from an
imported platform called Varyag from Ukraine was towed back to
the Dalian Port in northeast Liaoning Province yesterday after
four days of tests in the Yellow Sea.
"An aircraft carrier is the mark of major powers," the
Daily quoted Gen Qiao Liang a military expert as saying.
The vessel will largely expand the combat radius, raising
country`s off shore comprehensive combat capabilities beyond
the first island chain.
Qiao said air domination is the prerequisite of naval
warfare, especially for the remote areas away from the
heartland. As a result, there is no alternative for the
vessel`s leadership. Rather than an armament used in actual
combat, the aircraft carrier is now more a strategic weapon.