China’s Ministry of Defense has announced the country’s first aircraft carrier has entered the ranks of the navy. The announcement comes amid ongoing tensions with Japan over the disputed Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands. From Reuters:
The ministry announcement of the handover to the navy came while Beijing and Tokyo are embroiled in a dispute over islands claimed by both sides.
“The entry into the ranks of this aircraft carrier will raise the level of modernization of China’s overall naval operational forces,” the ministry said on its website (www.mod.gov.cn). It did not say whether the announcement meant the carrier had formally entered service.
While its status is not entirely clear, official media has reported that it will be ready for combat missions “soon,” and that it is prepared to play a role in resolving the Diaoyus dispute. From Shanghai Daily:
“China will have more variable ways, both strong and soft, to solve the disputes in the East and South China seas,” Qiao Liang, an air force major general, said yesterday.
Li Jie, a researcher with the China Navy Military Academy, also said the aircraft carrier would play an important role in China’s handling of island disputes and safeguarding its maritime interests.
China’s newly developed 052D missile destroyers will be the most suitable company for the aircraft carrier, said Hu Siyuan, a professor with the National Defense University PLA China.
The 160-meter-long destroyer is equipped with 130 millimeter caliber cannon and has two vertical launch systems to set off Redflag-9B missiles.