China will develop an aircraft carrier in line with its status as a major global power, state press yesterday reported National Defense Minister Liang Guanglie (梁光烈) as saying.
The comments by Liang, which come shortly after a spike in tension when Chinese vessels confronted a US naval surveillance ship, are the latest high-level confirmation that Beijing is beefing up its military.
Liang told visiting Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada on Friday of China’s ambition, the reports said.
“Among the big nations, only China does not have an aircraft carrier. China cannot be without an aircraft carrier forever,” the Oriental Morning Post — citing Japanese official sources — quoted Liang as saying.
“China’s navy is currently rather weak,” he said. “We need to develop an aircraft carrier.”
Senior members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have also called in recent months for China to acquire its first aircraft carrier, a sophisticated piece of military hardware that can be used to project power far beyond a nation’s shores.
“Building aircraft carriers is a symbol of an important nation. It is very necessary,” the China Daily paper quoted Admiral Hu Yanlin (胡顏林) as saying earlier this month.
“China has the capability to build aircraft carriers and should do so,” Hu was quoted as saying.
The defense ministry refused to immediately comment on Liang’s remarks, but in December, ministry spokesman Huang Xueping (黃雪平) told reporters that China would “seriously” consider getting an aircraft carrier.
“China needs an aircraft carrier because its global status is rising and it needs to defend its maritime territory and help maintain international peace,” said Jia Qingguo (賈慶國), an international security expert at Peking University.
“Sooner or later China will build an aircraft carrier. When it happens will mainly depend on whether the demand for this intensifies or not,” Jia said.
Liu Jiangyong (劉江永), an expert on international security at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times that a carrier was needed to protect shipping interests in an increasingly interlinked world.
“China has the need and the capability to build an aircraft carrier,” the paper quoted Liu as saying.
“Building an aircraft carrier will raise our strength in the high seas and is a necessary choice for a strong China,” Liu said.
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