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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Taiwan keeping its eyes on China's aircraft carrier program

Central News Agency

2011/08/10 13:57:39

By Lo Chu-tung, Chen Yi-wei and Sofia Wu

Taipei, Aug. 10 (CNA) Taiwan's Defense Ministry said Wednesday it was closely monitoring the launch of China's first aircraft carrier and China's carrier development program, while a local scholar described the milestone for China's navy as mostly symbolic.

China's official Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday that the country's first aircraft carrier "Varyag" -- a revamped Soviet Union-era ship bought from Ukraine in 1998 -- had begun its maiden sea trial in line with the schedule of its refitting project.

According to the schedule, the revamped carrier's first sea trial will not last long, the report said, adding that refitting and test work would continue after the vessel returns to the port city of Dalian.

Responding to the news, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Lo Shao-ho said the ministry has consistently kept close tabs on China's aircraft carrier development project and all relevant activities.

"We will continue to collect more information about all follow-up developments," Lo said.

Arthur S. Ding, director of National Chengchi University's International Relations Institute, said the Varyag's ongoing sea trial should only have symbolic meaning rather than a substantive impact, citing media footage that showed scaffoldings remaining on the ship's deck.

"The sea trial was launched mainly to satisfy the 1.3 billion Chinese people's expectation of progress in their country's aircraft carrier development," Ding said.

He suggested the move could also be a decision by China's navy, shipbuilding sector and various vested interests to fuel nationalism and patriotism.

Ding also predicted that the Varyag would not conduct frequent sea trials in the future because intelligence available at the moment shows that many technical problems remain in refurbishing the ship.

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