China’s new aircraft carrier to be based near South China Sea, as tensions with Washington rise
Base of warship – tipped to be named the Shandong – will enhance nation’s military capability in disputed waters where Beijing is building up artificial islands
China’s first home-made aircraft carrier is likely to be based somewhere near the South China Sea to handle “complicated situations”, mainland media has reported.
Beijing has yet to officially announce a home for China’s second aircraft carrier.
The Liaoning, a refurbished Soviet vessel, is based in Qingdao, a port in the north close to Japan and South Korea.
An aircraft carrier base along the southern coast would boost the nation’s military projection in the South China Sea, where China has been fortifying artificial islands, a source of tension with Washington. The military already operates the Yulin Naval Base, on Hainan Island, the headquarters of its nuclear submarine fleet.
The second aircraft carrier was expected to be named the Shandong after the province on the east coast, according to a report posted on Wednesday on Xiake Dao, a social media account affiliated with the overseas edition of People’s Daily.
The article said that “based on existing available information”, the aircraft carrier base would be in a southern province.
“It will be used to tackle the complicated situations in the South China Sea,” the article said.
The Liaoning, which was brought from Ukraine in 1998 and later refitted and renamed after the nation’s northeastern province, took part in drills carried out in the South China Sea in December.
On Tuesday, a television network in Shandong (山東 ) reported that the aircraft carrier was “taking shape” after two years and nine months of construction, but it did not provide further details, such as when the carrier would be completed.
Various Chinese media reports have suggested the carrier was expected to be completed in the first half of this year and would officially join the navy in 2019.
The defence ministry had earlier said construction was being carried out in the northeastern port of Dalian, at the same shipyard that refurbished the Liaoning.
An aircraft carrier in China is required to be named after a province or municipality. Previously, the final decision has been left up to the State Council or the General Staff Department, the former command organ and the headquarters of the People’s Liberation Army.
But the department was disbanded last year,and it is unclear whether the newly formed Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission has the right to make such a decision.
Even if the vessel was called the Shandong, the article said there was “little chance” it would be based there.