China deploys first aircraft carrier in South China Sea amid increased tensions with its equally powerful neighbours
Beijing : China’s first aircraft carrier on Tuesday left for its maiden deep-sea trials in the strategic South China Sea, where it is expected to play a major role amid heightened tensions with its neighbours over disputed islands, reports PTI.
The ‘Liaoning’ left its home port of Qingdao for the South China Sea on a scientific and training mission, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. China is a conducting several experiments on the 57,000-tonne carrier, including testing the new J-15 fighter plane’s operations from its deck. This is the first time the carrier has embarked on a cross-sea training voyage since it was commissioned into the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy last year, Liaoning’s Captain Zhang Zheng said. The voyage will test the carrier’s equipment, he said. The carrier’s crew conducted a series of tests and training drills, including landing and take-off by various aircraft, including the J-15. The carrier was escorted by two missile destroyers, Shenyang and Shijiazhuang, and two missile frigates, Yantai and Weifang.
The carrier, originally known as Varyag, was bought from Ukraine a decade ago and extensively refurbished before being commissioned last year. Long voyages are necessary for experimentation and training and to test equipment and troops under continuous work and different hydrological and meteorological conditions. The trials in the South China Sea are a “normal arrangement” in the carrier’s scheduled training, the PLA Navy said as it played down the significance of the voyage at a time when China is locked in maritime disputes with Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
The carrier’s trials began days after China’s unilateral move to establish an air defence zone over an area including islands in the East China Sea claimed by Japan.