China's first Aircraft carrier launch rings alarm bells across globe

China's first Aircraft carrier launch rings alarm bells across globe
Shanghai:  China needs to raise its military capabilities to protect its growing overseas interests, its foreign minister said following the launch of China's first domestically built aircraft carrier, while vowing not to pursue expansionism.

China launched the carrier on Wednesday amid rising tension over North Korea and regional worries about Beijing's assertiveness in the South China Sea and its broader military modernisation programme.

Speaking during a visit to Germany, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Chinese business and citizens had spread all around the world, with millions of people living overseas and nearly 30,000 Chinese-funded businesses registered in other countries.

"Under this new environment, China has ample reason to raise its own national defence capability to effectively protect its fair rights that are increasingly extending overseas," Wang said in response to a question on the new carrier, according to a statement on the ministry's website on Thursday.

China would maintain a 'defensive' military policy and had "no intention to engage in any kind of expansion", he said.

China's navy has been taking an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and new warships appearing in far-flung places.

President Xi Jinping's 'One Belt, One Road' infrastructure plan to forge enhanced trade corridors linking Europe and Africa with Central Asia and China further underscore the long-held blue-water ambitions of his naval strategists.

Secretive Programme

Little has been known, however, about China's domestic aircraft carrier programme, which is a state secret. China also does not give a spending breakdown for its defence budget.

But the government has said the new carrier's design draws on experiences from its first carrier, the Liaoning, bought second-hand from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted in China.

The influential state-run tabloid the Global Times said the launch represented a 'milestone' in military development.

"Building a strong defence...with a widespread global reach is now necessary to protect China's businesses and the massive interests that arise from them," the paper said in an editorial on Thursday.

"Having a domestically built aircraft carrier is also inspirational. China is taking concrete steps to be a first-rate power".

State media has quoted experts as saying China needs at least six carriers, and a corresponding number of overseas bases to support them.

That will leave China well short of being able to challenge the United States which operates 10 carriers and plans to build two more, and has decades of experience operating them.

Both Western and Asian naval officers are closely watching the development of the 001A, particularly for any advances in being able to properly defend the carrier against rival ships and submarines.

Liaoning test drills have concentrated largely on flight operations, and foreign officials say China has much to learn to about strike group defence, particularly anti-submarine tracking and early warning systems.