China put its first ever aircraft carrier into formal service on Tuesday in a symbolic move that could further raise tension with Japan and other neighbours.
The newly named Liaoning aircraft carrier will help Beijing “effectively protect national sovereignty, security and development interests”, China’s Ministry of Defence said.
“With the development of China’s maritime trade, the first aircraft carrier provides the foundation for the further development of China’s far-sea defence and far-sea navies,” said Ni Lexiong, director of the Naval Strategy and Defence Policy Institute at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law. “This is a happy occasion that is worthy of high praise.”
China’s President Hu Jintao, who is also chairman of the commission that controls the military, presided over the launch ceremony at the ship’s home port of Dalian, along with Premier Wen Jiabao and top generals. Mr Hu “fully affirmed’” the efforts of those working on the ship and called on them to complete all remaining tasks according to the highest standard, the defense ministry said.
The carrier is the former Soviet navy’s unfinished Varyag, which was towed from Ukraine in 1998 minus its engines, weaponry and navigation systems. Christened the Liaoning after the north-eastern province surrounding Dalian, the ship began sea trials in August 2011 following years of refurbishment.
The Liaoning will mostly be used for training purposes and short missions in China’s coastal waters.
Still, the symbolism of formally launching it now, in the midst of bitter recriminations over the uninhabited Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, fits with the provocative and strident stance Beijing has taken on the issue.
On Tuesday, Zhang Zhijun, Chinese vice foreign minister, in effect blamed the entire dispute on Tokyo and reiterated Beijing’s official line that “Japan must banish illusions, undertake searching reflections and use concrete actions to amend its errors, returning to the consensus and understandings reached between our two countries’ leaders.”
* Notícia publicada al Financial Times. Tot i que l'entrada en servei del nou portaavions de l'Armada xinesa no ens aporta res de nou ( en l'aspecte tecnològic), sí que és una fita històrica que quedarà als llibres, i hem cregut oportú compartir-la amb vosaltres.