China has grand ambitions for its aircraft carrier that extend into the Pacific, maybe to America’s western shores.
The Liaoning, China’s first and only carrier, will patrol deep into the Eastern Pacific, the People’s Daily, the primary publication of the ruling Communist Party of China, reported Sunday.
“Our aircraft carrier is not a recluse. Sooner or later, it will push past the ‘second island chain’ and into the Eastern Pacific,” the newspaper asserted.
“This is the song and destiny of China’s carrier!” It added.
China’s carrier has been very busy lately. The Liaoning was declared combat ready in November, and it demonstrated its firepower capabilities for the first time in mid-December. Toward the end of last month, the carrier set sail for exercises in the Western Pacific, and last week, the Liaoning drilled in the South China Sea.
“Aircraft carriers are strategic tools which should be used to show China’s strength,” the Global Times, a tabloid published by the People’s Daily, stressed Dec. 25.
“China’s core interests are mainly offshore, but the range of aircraft carriers must go beyond offshore areas,” the paper argued, “It should have the ability and courage to sail further. It should not only pass the first island chain, but also sail past the second island chain and go to the waters where Chinese cruise fleets have never been.”
“The Chinese fleet will cruise to the Eastern Pacific sooner or later. When China’s aircraft carrier fleet appears in offshore areas of the U.S. one day, it will trigger intense thinking about maritime rules,” the Global Times added.
China has one operational carrier fleet, with another carrier on the way. The navy of the People’s Liberation Army is expected to have a third carrier battle group in the new future to protect China’s “territorial sovereignty and maritime rights,” the People’s Daily explained, quoting military expert Liang Fang.
While China aspires to build a blue-water navy with power projection capabilities, it may take several years for it to build its navy to that level.
The Liaoning was originally a Soviet “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser,” according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. It was purchased in the 1990s and towed to China, where the ship was refurbished and converted into the Chinese navy’s first carrier.
The Liaoning still trails behind the U.S., but China has made progress with regard to carrier fleet development.
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