China aircraft carrier in South China Sea dispute
The announcement on July 27 that China had refitted an old Soviet-era aircraft carrier was likely timed for diplomatic benefit in territorial negotiations over the South China Sea.
Chinese officials had lengthy kept quiet about its function on the aircraft carrier, but if the ship is deployed as scheduled, it could tremendously increase China’s naval capabilities and affect the military balance in East Asia.
At a July 27 news conference, Geng Yansheng, a defense ministry spokesman, downplayed any connection between the announcement and territorial disputes Beijing has with Vietnam and also the Philippines within the South China Sea.
“The timing of this announcement has no relationship with problems within the South China Sea,” Geng stated. “There is going to be no alter in China’s defensive national defense policy.”
However, state-run media played up the first announcement that China possessed an aircraft carrier.
A report on China Central Tv explained that nine nations, including the United States, possessed aircraft carriers. Explaining that nations such as Japan and South Korea also have destroyers capable of carrying helicopters, the report went on to say, “It is only natural for China to possess one.”
Xinhua News Agency distributed a particular report which stated, “Building and operating an aircraft carrier is indispensable in becoming a main power in the world.”
The Chinese military began function to construct a domestic carrier from 2009. Work to repair the Varyag, a Soviet-era Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier, began in 2002. Having said that, the government never made any formal announcement with the moves.
Sources said Beijing kept the projects under wraps to stay away from complaints that China was becoming a threat from neighboring nations.
On the other hand, the main components of the Varyag, which includes its propulsion method, were completed early this year. Images of the aircraft carrier also began appearing on the net.
1 Chinese military source stated, “There was no longer a require to hide it.”
There were also growing calls online to formally announce the existence of the carrier.
Political considerations were also behind the announcement.
On July 21, Beijing formally approved guidelines to heighten the effectiveness of an action declaration that consists of a call for peaceful resolution of territorial disputes inside the South China Sea with members with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
By confirming possession of the aircraft carrier, China can demonstrate that it has a dominant naval presence in relation to Vietnam and also the Philippines and stake out an advantageous position before formal negotiations begin.
The Chinese military will begin working toward the launching of the 1st domestic-made aircraft carrier in 2014. Last year, a business affiliated using the military based in Shenyang, Liaoning province, manufactured a prototype of the Jian-15 fighter jet which will be loaded on the aircraft carrier.
Following training pilots to land and take off from China aircraft carrier at runways constructed in Xingcheng, Liaoning province, and Xian, Shaanxi province, the military is expected to carry out extra training on the Varyag.
Meanwhile, in his state of the nation address July 25, Philippine President Benigno Aquino indicated that his government would move rapidly to bolster its military capabilities.
The Philippines recently purchased a large Hamilton-class cutter from the United States, but Aquino indicated that the nation would strengthen its naval capabilities by also buying other vessels, helicopters and aircraft.
He also said that the Philippines could take up the territorial dispute with China in the International Tribunal for the Law with the Sea.