China Hints at Aircraft Carrier Project

The Financial Times reports that China may have plans to build an aircraft carrier:

The comments from Major General Qian Lihua, director of the ministry’s Foreign Affairs Office, come amid heated speculation within China and abroad that the increasingly potent naval arm of the People’s Liberation Army has decided to develop and deploy its first aircraft carrier. Traditionally, a carrier would accompany and protect a battle group of smaller ships.

The Pentagon said this year that China was actively engaged in aircraft carrier research and would be able to start building one by the end of this decade, while Jane’s Defence Weekly reported last month that the PLA was training 50 students to become naval pilots capable of operating fixed-wing aircraft from such a ship.

Maj Gen Qian declined to comment directly on whether China had decided to build a carrier, but in the defence ministry’s most forthright statement yet on the issue he made clear that China had every right to do so.

“The of any great power . . . has the dream to have one or more aircraft carriers,” he said in the interview, which aides said was the first arranged by the defence ministry on its own premises. “The question is not whether you have an aircraft carrier, but what you do with your aircraft carrier.”

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