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'China to build aircraft carrier'

File photo of China's defence minister Liang Guanglie. Photo courtesy China Daily

HONG KONG (BNS): China has announced that it will work to get its first aircraft carrier to increase its maritime reach in the region. The Chinese defence minister Liang Guanglie was reported as saying that among the big nations only China does not have an aircraft carrier.

This gap is likely to be filled soon. Liang made the comments after meeting his Japanese counterpart Yasukazu Hamada. The two leaders had met to resolve the dispute in the South China Sea.

The Chinese defence minister remarked that the country’s navy was weak and it would soon develop an aircraft carrier. The Asia-Pacific region has taken note of the statement as China’s navy was making some aggressive expansion. It has a fleet of nuclear submarines which are very active in the area.

This is the first time when a high-ranking Chinese official has publicly talked about building a carrier. A top Chinese navy official was earlier quoted as saying that building aircraft carriers is a symbol of an important nation. “China has the capability to build aircraft carriers and should do so,” the official said.

The announcement was made in the backdrop of territorial dispute in South China where Beijing was involved in a confrontation with the US over patrolling the waters. China is locked in a disputed with Malaysia and Philippines over the control of South China Sea.

The US security establishment has described as the most serious military incident involving the two powers since a US spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet in April 2001.

India is the only country in Asia that operates an aircraft carrier as of now. It already has one carrier and two more are likely to be inducted in the next decade. India had more recently laid the keel for its first indigenous aircraft carrier joining only a few countries in the world to build a maritime naval platform.

New Delhi would closely follow the development of the Chinese programme as until now it was the sole country to have that expertise. Building a carrier is a complicated process and requires skills in warship designing and aircraft handling. India is being assisted by the Russians and Italians in building the warship on which MiG-29K combat jets would be operated.

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