China launches second aircraft carrier

China on Wednesday launched a new aircraft carrier, boosting its military presence amid rising tensions in the region.

The launch of the red ribbon- and flag-festooned vessel from its China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation dry dock occurred at Dalian, Liaoning Province on the northeast coast of China.

The new ship was rolled out on the same day that the US Army began installing the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system onto a golf course in Seongju, South Korea, as a response to the North Korean threat.

The launch "shows our country's indigenous aircraft carrier design and construction has achieved major step-by-step results", Xinhua news agency said.

"New Delhi should perhaps be less eager to speed up the process of building aircraft carriers in order to counter China's growing sway in the Indian Ocean, and focus more on its economy", it said.

There are signs China hurried through the launch ceremony which is due to be fully operational in 2020 although it is far from ready.

China has enhanced the battle capabilities of its aircraft carrier Liaoning, with more than 10 pilots from carrier-based jet fighters and commanders getting their certificates, making China one of the few countries capable of training its own pilots for aircraft carriers.

The new vessel still lags behind its U.S. counterparts technologically, but senior fellow at Sydney's Lowy Institute Sam Roggeveen told CNN it is likely just a "stepping stone" to China's next generation of aircraft carriers.

It is believed to be joining the South Sea Fleet, which is in charge of the South China Sea, where China has territorial disputes with other nations over islands and reefs. "With each new aircraft carrier, China is sending a signal that it has no peer among its neighbors", the New York Times quoted Patrick M. Cronin, the senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, as saying.

That's the same city where the hull of China's first carrier, the Ukrainian-built Liaoning, underwent extensive refurbishing before being commissioned in 2012. The giant ship is powered by two advanced nuclear reactors, and equipped with electromagnetic aircraft launching system., even though its recovery device was changed to cable arresting gears for safety consideration.

The second-most powerful navy after the US, China has some 65 submarines whereas India has 14. But Hong Kong's Ming Pao newspaper reported on April 24 that activity around the aircraft carrier and the dock show that a launching ceremony was not held the day before.

The U.S. carrier's commissioning is pending.

  • Leroy Wright