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China's sole aircraft carrier begins sea trials

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The Chinese aircraft carrier.

BEIJING (BNS): China on Wednesday began sea trials of its lone aircraft carrier amidst growing tensions in the Asia Pacific region.

The warship left the Dalian port in northeast China's Liaoning Province to enter the sea, the official media reported.

Quoting military sources, the state-run Xinuha news agency said that the first sea trial was in line with schedule and would not take a long time.

“After returning from the sea trial, the aircraft carrier will continue refit and test work,” it said.

China had officially confirmed in June that it was revamping a partially-built Soviet-era aircraft carrier which it had bought from Ukraine in 1998, sparking concern over its growing military might and ambitious naval expansion.

The 990-foot warship, named Varyag, was originally being built for the Soviet Navy but could not be completed following the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991.

“The 67,500-ton aircraft carrier is considerably smaller than the Japan-based US carrier George Washington, which has a displacement of more than 100,000 tons. But when it goes into service, it will make China one of four countries besides the US, France and Russia to have an operational carrier with a displacement of 50,000 tons or more,” the China Daily newspaper had reported.

The warship has been launched at a time when regional tension is high between China and other Asian countries, including Japan, Vietnam and Philippines, over the strategically important South China Sea.

The Communist country, however, has sought to downplay concerns over the vessel, saying that the warship would be used for “training and research purposes.”

China has been rapidly modernising its naval forces in an effort to build a “Blue Water Navy”. However, a secretive defence policy has put many of the country’s defence programmes under the wraps for years.

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