Chinese aircraft carrier to begin 2nd round of sea trials
China’s first aircraft carrier set sail for its second trial at sea on Tuesday for scientific research and experiments, the Xinhua news agency quoted a statement by the Chinese Defence Ministry.
The carrier was originally built by the former USSR which called it Varyag, but did not complete construction of the carrier before it collapsed in 1991. The currently unnamed carrier was an empty shell, with Ukraine stripping it of arms and engines before selling it to China. Xinhua reported that the vessel “has been totally refitted for its new role as a research and training platform in China.”
“The building of an aircraft carrier is a long and complex project. In the building process, there will be a series of scientific research experiments and training exercises, and such activities are routine and normal,” Xinhua reported.
The vessel departed for its first trial from a port in China’s north-eastern city of Dalian on 10 August.
Report: China's refitted aircraft carrier platform sets sail for 2nd trial (Xinhua, 29 Nov 2011)
This new development comes days after the commencement of the Chinese navy's annual training in the Western pacific that involves sailing between islands in Japan's Okinawa chain.
The Defence Ministry last week issued a statement saying the exercises were not directed toward "any particular country or objective." However, they drew significant attention in the media in Japan, where defence experts are suspicious of the Chinese navy's mounting presence in Japanese waters.
China’s announcement that the carrier is intended for research and training has added to speculation that it intends to construct additional aircraft carriers based on the Varyag. Nonetheless, analysts believe that China is still years away from being able to launch and recover aircraft from it as part of a carrier battle group.
China has kept the sea trials relatively low-key amid worries across the region about its growing military might and increasingly strident claims to disputed territory.
Report: Chinese aircraft carrier on 2nd set of sea trials (Associated Press, 29 Nov 2011)
Report: Chinese aircraft carrier on second round of sea trials (Today, 30 Nov 2011)
A spokesman with the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the new trial seeks to address difficulties encountered in the previous one, and insisted that “China will insist on following the path of peaceful development and a defensive military policy so as to play a key role in regional peace and security.”
Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported that the carrier was likely to be assigned to China’s South China Sea fleet to safeguard China’s oil shipping lines, and expected to “help play an important part in resolving sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea that involve China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan.”
Taiwan's Defence Ministry is reported to have said that it was paying close attention to China's development of its carrier forces when China launched the first trial of the aircraft carrier.
Report: Second sea trial for China's first aircraft carrier (Central News Agency, 29 Nov 2011)
In Tokyo, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said he was troubled by China’s military growth, urging China to behave as a “responsible member of the international community,” while emphasising that Japan wants to deepen relations with China in the run-up to the 40th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic ties next year.
Japan Today said in a report that Japan has raised concerns over China’s expanding naval prowess over nearby waters and the Pacific and over the lack transparency of China’s rapidly-increasing military budget. The report added that China responded harshly, with the Chinese Foreign Ministry reiterating that Chinese efforts to modernise its military were defensive in nature.
Report: Japan concerned as China's first aircraft carrier starts second trial (Japan Today, 29 Nov 2011)
Sino-Indian border talks postponed
Meanwhile, talks between India and China scheduled to begin Monday were postponed by New Delhi, in what is seen as adding to rising tensions between the two Asian countries.
The talks between Chinese and Indian officials were to be held in New Delhi to discuss the two countries’ longstanding border dispute. It was reported that Beijing had demanded that India cancel an international religious meeting which started in New Delhi on Sunday and which the Dalai Lama is scheduled to address on Wednesday. India rejected the demand, saying it is a cultural and religious event.
A senior official with the Indian Foreign Ministry said the talks had been called off. “Beijing wanted Delhi to cancel the Buddhist meeting where his holiness the Dalai Lama will be speaking on Wednesday...India refused to accept China's demand as the leader is free to speak on spiritual matters,” the official told the AFP news outlet.
On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei did not comment on the religious conference directly, but reiterated that China “opposes any country providing a platform for the Dalai Lama and accused the Tibetan leader of being engaged in separatist activities under the pretence of religion.” The Dalai Lama’s representative in New Delhi responded that Beijing was politicising what was supposed to be a religious event.
Talks between the two countries to resolve their disputed boundaries have been on-going for nearly three decades, but progress has been slow. The postponement of the talks is the latest in a diplomatic spat between Beijing and New Delhi.
China often objects to any contact between other governments and the Dalai Lama, accusing the spiritual leader of “separatism” by encouraging violent opposition to Chinese rule in Tibet. Recent weeks have seen protests in China, with at least 11 Tibetan monks and nuns setting themselves on fire to protest against increasing Chinese control. Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of supporting the self-immolations, calling the Dalai Lama's stance on the self-immolations “terrorism in disguise.”
The Dalai Lama however asserts that he is only peacefully seeking greater autonomy. The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 and later founded the Tibetan government in exile in the northern Indian town Dharamshala after India offered him refuge.
China also recently protested oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea, and is unhappy over the news of an Indian plan to place tens of thousands of additional troops to the frontier near Tibet.
India has also been anxious about increasing Chinese influence in Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. India has voiced its displeasure over Chinese assertive claims to sovereignty over the South China Sea as well as Beijing calling the north-eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh “South Tibet.”
Report: India Postpones Border Talks With China (Voice of America, 28 Nov 2011)
Report: India-China meeting off over Dalai Lama: source (AFP, 28 Nov 2011)
Report: India and China scrap border talks after Dalai Lama row (Guardian, 27 Nov 2011)